People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) organised its 15th national convention in Bengaluru. The three-day convention, which started on February 28, and concluded on March 2, was attended by 150 people from eleven states. In the light of the ongoing onslaught on the rights of various communities, attack on freedom of expression, and speech and growing intolerance in the country, the theme of the convention was ‘Threats and challenges to the idea of pluralism, democracy and the constitution’.
The press statement issued by the PUCL noted that the discussions over the three days examined the politics based on hate, majoritarianism and the signs of approaching fascism. The convention also recognised the failure of the criminal justice system in the country, and talked about various draconian laws that are still being used to silence the voices of dissent. Some of the topics that were discussed included: the change in the nature and the structures of the labour market, government’s contribution in diminishing labour rights, and the violations of the rights of the Dalits, women, LGBTQI+ communities and, sex workers.
Following are the three resolutions that were passed during the convention:
1. Resolution on release of those arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case:
The convention demanded the release of its national secretary, Sudha Bharadwaj, along with the others arrested in the Bhima Koregaon violence case lodged by the Pune police in January 2018: Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Varavara Rao, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, and Mahesh Raout.
A press release by the PUCL following the convention read: “[W]e condemn the Maharashtra State and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government Of India for having brazenly flouting all laws and fabricating the case, with trumped up charges and shielding the real culprits, which include Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide and their followers. Targeted lawyers, trade union activists and, writers and, poets and academics. It is our belief that this attempt is an attack on the right to dissent, the right to defense and the right to organise and the right to association. The PUCL will continue and step up the nationwide campaign for their release. We also demand that the Pune police stop forthwith the witch hunt of Data Analyst and Management Professional Anand Teltumbde and writer and thinker Gautam Navlakha.”
It added that calling the Elgar Parishad an event of the Maoists, is “to delegitimise the history of the Dalit movement in Maharashtra”.
2. Resolution for peace and stopping the human rights violation in Kashmir:
The second resolution passed in the convention highlighted the extent to which the Indian state has gone in Kashmir to strip Kashmiris of their rights, in the light of the Pulwama tragedy on February 13, 2019. The statement said, “[A]part from removing security from the Hurriyat leaders who were pro dialogue from India, followed by arrests of more than 300 Kashmiri people and now the banning of the Jamaat Islami Kashmir for five years, along with the closure of more than 300 schools run by them, tragically bringing on the road more than a hundred thousand students and 10,000 teachers just before their exams, shows the extent to which the Indian State can go.”
“Banning organizations is against the Right to Association as enshrined in the Constitution and in the case of Kashmir, Banning Jamaat Islami Kashmir, will bring out further alienation. From 2008 to 2018 there have been 4,059 deaths on all sides of the conflict, including civilians, militants and Indian security forces. […] The continuous use of pellet guns, use of sexual violence, arbitrary detention, restrictions on use of internet, use of extraordinary laws like the PSA only furthers the alienation of the people of Kashmir.”
The PUCL demanded that the government address violations of human rights, rethink the policy of repression, begin a dialogue to redress the alienation of the Kashmiri people, and prevent young people from taking up arms.
3. Eviction of Adivasis and forest dwellers from their lands in forest areas:
The statement read: “The PUCL is shocked at the SC ruling which directed eviction of several lakhs of Adivasis and Forest dwellers from their lands in Forest Areas, thereby reinforcing the historic wrong that the Forest Rights Act, 2006 had tried to undo. We are glad that the order was stayed by Supreme Court when there was massive outrage by the Tribals and other groups. However, the PUCL demands of the GOI which had allowed the SC to pass that order by willful absence of lawyers, now not only fight it tooth and nail in the SC but also bring in legal protective measures to prevent such evictions.”