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Thursday, June 23, 2011

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS: PUCL are cogs of democracy!

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Groups like PUCL are cogs of democracy

The task of forging solidarities to fight against repression by the State must begin with a spirited defence of civil liberties

Manisha Sethi

THE PEOPLE’S Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) may be banned in Chhattisgarh soon. Flogging the old and almost dead horse of the organisation supplying arms to Maoists, the state’s Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar has been threatening to invoke the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act against it. Is this simply the bluster of a frustrated minister whose government couldn’t keep a good doctor in jail despite its best efforts? Will the banning of PUCL be an act of sweet revenge for the Raman Singh government or will it be the final push against the voices of opposition that rose in defiance to the state’s genocide against its own people in the form of Salwa Judum?

Illustration: Anand Naorem
Given the state government’s record — the tearing down of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) houses and huts, the hounding of Himanshu Kumar, the arrest of VCA activists Kopa Kunjam and Sukhnath Oyame, and of course the sedition case against Binayak Sen being cases in point — there is all likelihood of the ban being pushed through sooner than later. There are reports that the Special Intelligence Branch of the Police (SIB) has already begun the process of collecting detailed reports on the various activities of the organisation from all the 18 districts of the state, along with suggestions to impose a ban.

Such actions throw up a very important question. Why do our governments fear these activists? When democracy is reduced to five-yearly rituals — and Parliament and state Assemblies are the only legitimate arena of politics — dissent can only be criminal. Or at best, decorative. PUCLs can be the pretty props of Indian democracy. Their purpose is largely ornamental, adding to themela and mélange of the biggest democracy of the world. Till they begin to hold up a mirror to the grisliness of the Indian State. Hollowed out of all real meaning, democracy is a bare shell, bereft of justice and security of life and livelihood

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