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Call to repeal ‘black laws’

- People’s organisation begins campaign in Shillong

Shillong, Dec. 9: On the eve of International Human Rights Day, a campaign was held here demanding removal of Meghalaya Preventive Detention Act and Meghalaya Maintenance of Public Order Act terming these laws “draconian”.

Led by Thma-U-Rangli-Juki, a progressive people’s organisation, the campaign kicked off today at Khyndai Lad, with a small gathering near a shopping mall.

“Laws like the preventive detention act and the maintenance of public order act have institutionalised human rights violations,” alleged social activist Angela Rangad to people at the street-corner gathering.

While the public order act enables the government to make restrictions on movement, control meetings and processions and essential services to maintain public order, the preventive detention act allows the government or district magistrate to detain a person upto three years with a view to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state or to the maintenance of public order or of supplies and services essential to the community.

“If celebration of International Human Rights Day has to have any meaning in Meghalaya, the people should start challenging these legal cultures of rights violation,” the activist said.

Speakers at the gathering also pointed out that the application of the preventive detention act was vague as it does not distinguish between militants, activists and criminals and that anyone can be detained under this act, depending on the whims and fancies of the government.

According to Rangad, if the Centre can remove Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, (Tada) because of widespread allegations of abuse, there was no problem for the state government to do away with these “draconian” black laws which violated human rights.

Stating that Meghalaya is one of the most corrupt states in the country, the activists also alleged that these laws came into force to curb individual and collective expression of dissent.

Church leader Rev. K. Pyrtuh and other activists also spoke at the gathering and asked the government to do away with these two laws.

A statement issued by the Thma-U-Rangli-Juki alleged that the preventive detention act has been used even to arrest carjackers, pickpockets, people protesting against corruption in the government and uranium mining, thieves and mischiefmongers.

“The range of criminals that preventive detention act seeks to detain reveals the unlimited authoritarian nature of the law. These laws are designed to be abused, because they subvert every tenet of democratic norms. They violate constitutional rights and legal provisions meant to protect the individual,” the statement said.

The organisation said experience has shown that these draconian black laws give the government unlimited power to choose the group, section and political opinion to label as criminal and to attack with “legal” violence of preventive detention, legal ostracism and financial extortion.

“Laws like the preventive detention act and the public order act in our state has slowly and silently eroded legal procedures and constrained democratic spaces by curbing the individual and collective expression of dissent. The logical outcome of such arbitrary laws then is to push through anti-people development policies by the government and silence people at large when those policies threaten their land, resources, and livelihood, allowing the elites to protect their privileges and push forward their plans which will usher in grave inequalities,” the statement added.

The Meghalaya government had in the past booked a number of people who committed crimes, including members of militant groups.

At present, two leaders of pro inner-line permit (ILP) groups who were arrested by police recently have been booked under the preventive detention act.

Earlier, the government had also arrested chairman of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) Champion R. Sangma under this act.