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India: Text of statements by human rights groups regarding the arrest of Anna Hazare and others on 16 August 2011

16 August 2011

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PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES (PUCL)

16 August 2011

Silencing dissenting

PUCL statement on the arrest of Anna Hazare and other activists

PUCL strongly condemns the arrest of Anna Hazare and other activists before their proposed fast for an effective Lokpal legislation. In a democracy every citizen has a right to articulate his set of demands in a peaceful manner. Besides, the constitution of India provides every citizen of the country a fundamental right to protest against the government policies. It is unconstitutional for the administration to proscribe the method of protest when it is absolutely peaceful and put severe conditions which make the said right meaningless. In other words by arresting the mentioned activists, the government of the day is guilty of violating the constitution of India.

PUCL views it with grave concern that the police could not present any legal basis to arrest the civil society activists except that they had orders from above. This shows that rule of law has fully been undermined by the Delhi police, which is a condemnable act. PUCL also notes with concern that the dimension of suppression of civil rights by all the governments in the country - states and the central - has enormously widened - now even peaceful fasting protests are being criminalised and crushed. This is a worrying trend for the Indian democracy as right to register peaceful protest is the ultimate weapon in the hands of millions of ordinary citizens to register their dissent against the anti-people policies. PUCL demands immediate release of the activists from administrative custody.

PUCL calls upon all the human rights organisations, movements and democracy loving citizens to come together and chalk out a strategy to fight this menace of highhandedness by the state that is bent on silencing all the dissenting voices and severely cripples our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

— By Prabhakar Sinha, President; Pushkar Raj, General Secretary; Kavita Srivastava, Secretary, PUCL National

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PEOPLES UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

Press Release

16th August 2011

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) strongly condemns the
unconstitutional and undemocratic act of the Central Government in detaining Anna Hazare and his supporters in the early hours of 16th August, who were scheduled to arrive at the site of peaceful demonstration. PUDR considers the conditions laid down by the government such as number of participants allowed, timing of the demonstrations etc. to be authoritarian. PUDR is concerned that this clampdown on democratic rights represents the shrinking democratic space in the country where S. 144 of CRPC is used to prevent citizens from lodging their disapproval of government policies and actions.

PUDR is of the opinion that irrespective of politics they espouse,
individuals and organisations have the legitimate right to mobilise people
and stage protest against the government policies which they dislike or
oppose. In the specific instance of the Lokpal bill there maybe sharp
disagreement over the various versions of the bill in the public domain from
a variety of vantage points. We are mindful of the fact that two most talked
about bills namely the government version and Anna Hazare’s team version
have been subjected to public criticism for a variety of reasons. However,
for the government to claim that once the matter is placed before the
parliament there is no cause for public protest smacks of government being
innocent of constitution they have sworn to protect. We wish to remind the
central government that neither they nor the parliament can take away
people’s inalienable rights under the spurious plea that once people elect
their representatives right to protest by citizens gets curtailed.

PUDR is also concerned that it is the Central Government, which by taking
recourse to undemocratic means, is further alienating people and compelling
them, to either become mute witness to government-bureaucracy-corporations nexus in loot and plunder of the public funds, or to take recourse to violent means of protest.

PUDR, therefore, calls upon people to oppose the government stand on
clamping down on legitimate protests and question government’s right to
decide what is permissible and what is not, so long as protests are
peaceful.

Paramjeet Singh and Harish Dhawan

(Secretaries PUDR)