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31 May, 2013

100 in Kerala jails under UAPA, 92 of them Muslims, rest alleged naxalites

The Popular Front of India held a massive rally in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday evening at the end of its march against the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act which began at Kozhikode earlier in the month.

PFI State President Karamana Ashraf Moulavi said at the meeting there are 100 persons in jails in Kerala under UAPA, of whom 92 are Muslims.

UAPA was invoked in the State for the first time by the last Left Democratic Front government -- against PFI members arrested in connection with the chopping of the hand of T. J. Joseph, a college teacher, for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed.

The present UDF government has slapped UAPA against PFI members arrested in connection with the case of alleged arms training at Narath as also against a group of persons arrested at Mavelikkara for alleged Naxalite activities.

All the charges levelled against the persons arrested in connection with these cases are such as can be dealt with under the IPC and other ordinary laws. Yet the police invoked the UAPA also primarily to deny the accused the benefit of bail and to evade the responsibility to prove their case in a court of law by adducing evidence against the accused.

UAPA was enacted in 1967 making use of a constitutional amendment made in 1963, in the wake of the border war with China, which empowers the state to restrict fundamental freedoms to check activities detrimental to the country's sovereignty and integrity. The government has been increasingly relying on this law after popular protests forced it to abandon the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

Since 1967, UAPA has been amended several times. After every major terrorist attack, taking advantage of the anti-terrorist sentiments of the public, the government has been making the law more harsh but it has not been producing results..  

Draconian laws are instruments of harassment rather than tools to be used to bring the guilty to book. According to official statistics, TADA was invoked against 76,000 people. Only 1.5 per cent of them was convicted. Charges under POTA were slapped against 1,031 persons. Only 13 of them were convicted.

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