Groundxero : 6 September, 2023
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on September 5 (Tuesday) conducted simultaneous searches at eight locations in five districts of Uttar Pradesh. They raided the residences and offices of several activists, including the residence of Seema Azad, national secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Bhagat Singh Student’s Morcha (BSM) to probe their alleged connection with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The raids and searches by NIA lead to an uproar from several activists who termed it as “criminalising of activism”. CDRO called these raids and interrogations to be the branding of open, democratic, pro-people activities as “extremists, anti-national, anti-state”. CDRO strongly believes that these brandings are done by the government and the NIA not only to stifle the voices of active human rights and democracy defenders but also to manufacture public support for their illegal activities.
In a Press statement issued on 6th September 2023 CDRO demanded stopping of this witch hunt of activists, an immediate withdrawal of the FIR and a halt to the investigation by the NIA. It urged the MHA to stop criminalising activism aimed at realising the directive principles of state policy as anti-national. CDRO feels that it is the responsibility of all democracy-loving citizens to come forward and raise their voices against these acts as otherwise, the authoritarian and fascistic regime will take away all rights of the people.
The copy of the CDRO Press release is given below.
COORDINATION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS (CDRO)
6th September 2023
Condemn the NIA raid on the Democratic Rights, Farmer, student activists and advocates.
On 5 September, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out simultaneous raids at eight different places in Allahabad (Prayagraj), Varanasi, Chandauli, Azamgarh and Devaria districts of Uttar Pradesh. The houses raided include that of the National Secretary and UP State President of PUCL, Adv. Seema Azad. Ms. Azad and her husband, Adv. Vishwa Vijay, had been subjected to twelve hours of intensive interrogation by the NIA. Seema Azad is a human rights activist of deep integrity who has led many PUCL Fact Finding teams against violations of human rights in several parts of UP and has initiated the process, under the aegis of the UP PUCL, of making a Human Rights Manifesto for the UP- state elections, eighteen months ago. According to news sources, the NIA officers have seized Seema Azad’s devices, books, poems, magazines, and other documents.
Others raided and interrogated by the NIA include Advocate Soni Azad, an active member of the PUCL UP and her husband, Ritesh Rai. Akanksha Azad and Siddhi, President and Joint Secretary, respectively, of the Bhagat Singh Student Morcha (BSM), were interrogated for more than eight hours, and BSM’s office was raided in Varanasi. The NIA also raided the Deoria house of Activist Rajesh Azad of the Khiriyabagh-Azamgarh farmers movement and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha. Manish Azad, a resident of Allahabad, was interrogated for several hours, and his house was raided. CDRO unequivocally condemns these raids as well. From news reports, we have learnt that today’s raids by the NIA were carried out under the FIR: RC-01/2023/NIA/LKW, which is not available on the website of the NIA. It has also been learnt that this FIR was lodged in June 2023.
The seizure memo of Akanksha Azad, a copy of which is available, states that apart from the electronic devices of 2 laptops and the phone of Akanksha, they also seized books and magazines like “Dastak”, BSM magazine “Mashaal”, student magazine “Alternate” published from Delhi, pamphlets of Mazdoor Kisan Morcha, Go To Village campaign report of BSM. All of these materials are available in the public domain and cannot be construed as incriminating evidence as claimed by the NIA. It may be noted that these raids come in light of the recent attempts at suppression of the Bihar-based Kaimur Mukti Morcha’s leadership, which has been at the forefront of the Adivasi struggle in Kaimur plateau against the blatant land-grabbing of their lands for the sake of creating a tiger reserve in the area. In the past, police have opened fire on peaceful protests of the KMM and repeatedly abducted their activists. It is learnt that on 27th August, a meeting was organised against this loot and arrest of political activists, and the BSM was active in that protest.
CDRO considers these raids and interrogations to be the branding of open, democratic, pro-people activities as Naxalites and the “extremists, anti-national, anti-state”. CDRO strongly believes that these brandings are done by the government and the NIA not only to stifle the voices of active human rights and democracy defenders but also to manufacture public support for their illegal activities.
These raids, detentions and interrogations are neither isolated events nor localised only in the state of UP, which, under the present BJP regime, is known for trampling the democratic rights of the people openly. In the recent past, the country has witnessed similar raids and harassment of journalists, advocates and democratic rights activists in Jharkhand, Telangana, Andhra and Tamil Nadu.
CDRO, therefore, notes with grave concern that in the pretext of tackling Naxalism, people working to ensure that the Directive Principles of State Policy become a living reality for the marginalised are being criminalised. This is an attempt to intimidate Indian citizens who want to raise democratic demands and seek accountability from public officials and the political executive. This thinking of the government of heckling, arresting, and detaining the human rights activists is also evident in the speech made by the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval at the passing out parade of the 73rd batch of IPS probationers at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVP NPA) in Hyderabad. In that speech, he had termed the civil society as the “new frontiers of war” or the “fourth-generation warfare”. He further went on to state that “ … But it is the civil society that can be subverted, suborned, divided, manipulated tohurt the interests of a nation”.
CDRO strongly objects to this maligning of the democratic rights activities and the people and organisations championing the cause of the marginalised sections of the society openly and persistently over decades.
CDRO demands the stopping of this witch hunt an immediate withdrawal of the FIR and a halt to the investigation. CDRO feels that it is the responsibility of all democracy-loving citizens to come forward and raise their voices against these acts as otherwise, the authoritarian and fascistic regime will take away all rights of the people.
- The closure and halting of investigation of the NIA FIR, RC-01/2023/NIA/LKW, based on which raids in 8 locations of 5 districts of UP were
- The disbanding of the
- The MHA to stop criminalising activism aimed at realising the directive principles of state policy as anti-national.
(Asish Gupta) (Tapas Chakraborty) (Kranthi Chaitanya)
Constituent Organisations of CDRO:
Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab); Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Haryana), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association(West Bengal); Bandi Mukti Committee(West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR TamilNadu); Coordination for Human Rights (Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights; Peoples’Committee for Human Rights (Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum(Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur, Delhi; Janakeeya Manushyaavakasha Prasthanam, Kerala.