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If you canít make history, usurp one
TADA in Maharashtra
By MH Lakdawala

Mumbai: "Terrorist And Disruptive Activities (TADA) act has been repealed since long but people arrested under this draconian law continue to suffer endlessly in various parts of the country, particularly in Mumbai. This draconian law is being misused against the minorities.
Most of the TADA detainees in Maharashtra are innocent and poor people. They have been implicated in TADA for sins they never committed. The majority of TADA detainees around the state are Muslims and many have been falsely implicated or their cases are not of terrorist-nature, which was the excuse for enacting the law in the first place. Due to its gross misuse the law was allowed to lapse- but those already` booked under this so-called law continue to languish in jails suffering from the proverbial sluggishness of Indian Judicial System".
This is excerpt from a report compiled by two eminent lawyers of the Supreme Court of India Dr Nafis Ahmad Siddiqui and Mohammad Taiyab Khan in 1999.

The report further elaborates that most TADA detainees are from very poor family background so they were badly tortured when they were arrested by Police. After their arrest their photographs were taken by the police and it was threatened that these photographs are beings handed over to Shiv Sainiks as soon as you will be released on bail so you shall be killed by them. Four accused that were released on bail were murdered by the Chota Rajan Gang. Most of these under trials were shabbily dressed and were disappointed of their detention as they were in jail for last 7 years without bail. That their case was being defended by the Amicus Curiae (AC) on nominal Government expenses because they were unable to defend their cases and they were unable to engage lawyer of their choice due to their financial conditions.

The official admission of allegations of misuse of TADA is evident from a letter by former Union Home Minister, S.B.Chavan, dated July 27,1994 to the chief ministers of all states where TADA was applicable. The letter emphasised that TADA should not be used against political opponents, trade union leaders, journalists, former judges and civil servants. The very need for such a letter is evidence that such abuse of the law was taking place.

The tale of Mumbai in December 1992-1993 is a sorry record of partisan and brutal police behavior against the state's minorities. In the aggression and frenzy unleashed by the Maharashtra and Mumbai police following the bomb blasts of March 1993, members of the minority community were threatened with indiscriminate arrests under TADA and huge money extorted from them under this threat. Muslim businessmen had then alleged that as much as Rs. 25 crores had been extorted from them in this fashion.

According to a 1994 Union home ministry report sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), 76,166 people had been arrested under TADA in 1994. Of these, 18,708, that is 24.5 percent were discharged. Of those whose trial were completed only a bare 2.5 percent were convicted. The average period spent in jail by a TADA under trial in Maharashtra was 25 months.
In the neighboring state of Gujarat 18, 584 persons were arrested under that law. Trade unionists, environmental activists and citizens belonging to the minority community were the sufferers.

The National Minorities Commission also passed a unanimous resolution condemning the misuse of the law against the minorities. Justice Rajinder Sachar, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court and senior functionary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) had stated on record, "TADA is being misused.After Bombay (bomb blasts) many Muslims have been arrested under TADA."

In Maharashtra though its misuse in the wake of the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai got wider publicity, TADA was extensively used against the tribal of Gadchiroli for nurturing the Naxalite movement. A report published in 1995 by a journalist, Mr Punya Prasun Vajpai,said that 277 tribal detenus,45 of them women were languishing in the Nagpur and Amravati jails after the lapse of TADA.

Another Nagpur based team of social and civil liberties was disturbed by the Maharastra's omission from the NHRC's 1994-95 annual report of about 171 deaths in police custody, published an independent report highlighting the deaths in police custody of two tribal youths in September 1994 and August 1995.Both were TADA detenus.
A 12 year-old boy in Ahmedabad who was going from a curfew-bound area to an adjoining non-curfew area to buy milk during the post-Babri Masjid violence in the city was arrested under TADA.

Scores of villagers who were opposed to Sardar Sarovar Project were put behind bar under TADA.
Over 40 striking workers of Universal Luggage in Aurangabad were arrested under TADA. One of them was beaten up and died in jail. A young man from Srivardhan in Raigad district was falsely implicated under TADA for smuggling RDX.Another young man from a village in coastal Maharashtra was arrested under TADA for keeping some spindles in his godown which police mistook for missiles!

Maharashtra Prevention of Organised Crime Act (MOCA) is an almost "duplicate" law, even more draconian than the TADA itself. It has been applied to arrest doctors, film personalities, a judge, reporters, workers, youth and people of all backgrounds. While extortion, contract killings, money laundering etc., continue unabated in Mumbai, this law has emerged as one of the most potent tools in the hands of Maharashtra police to threaten and terrorise the people fighting for economic and social justice.

The Atal Behari Vajpayee Government approved MOCA in FEB 19 1999 in toto the legislation to curb organised crime and extortion in Mumbai and other parts of the state.

The then Sena-BJP alliance government's main contention was that after the lapse of TADA, police had virtually become handicapped and could not book gangsters. Subsequently, the alliance government introduced a new legislation, Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities (Prevention) Act, but that too failed to restore peace.

The new legislation gives sweeping powers to police, and its provisions are more or less similar to those of TADA. The highlight of the new legislation is that the accused will have to prove he is not guilty of committing a crime and secondly, even a person remotely linked to gangsters can be punished for abetting organised crime.

"The experience of TADA and its brutal and insensitive application to the Indian civilian population is testimony of the desire and designs of a government and law and order machinery that wishes the experience to be repeated. Terrorism was not curtailed then, it was not even contained despite the existence of TADA. On the contrary, thorough investigative procedures were given the go-by, dulling the professionalism of the law and order machinery that was simultaneously empowered by a brutal law to become trigger happy and break the law. Do we want this experience to be repeated?"Says Teesta Setalvad, editor of Communalism Combat.
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