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All-India campaign by civil society, labour and farmers’ organisations on Independence Day

The National Campaign to Defend Democracy will take a pledge to to fight draconian laws, and uphold the right to question and show dissent
Representative image.

Animesh Bisoee   |   Jamshedpur   |   Published 11.08.21, 01:30 AM

Over 160 civil society, labour and farmers’ organisations will as part of a nationwide campaign on Independence Day take a pledge to fight draconian laws, uphold the right to question and show dissent and oppose State actions that “deprive us of the freedoms of speech and opinion”.

The movement, named National Campaign to Defend Democracy and spearheaded by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (a conglomeration of human rights organisations) and trade unions, will also seek justice for Father Stan Swamy.

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The pledge, framed as part of the national movement, says: “We pledge to campaign for repealing all draconian laws and assert the right to bail of every citizen. We believe that the right to question and the right to dissent are the foundation of our democratic, secular and socialist republic. We commit to campaign against all ideologies, laws and State actions that deprive us of the freedoms of speech and opinion, conscience, association, and to non-violent opposition”.

In Jharkhand, participants will read out the pledge in almost all 260 blocks of the 24 districts on August 15.

“Although all district units have been given the liberty to stage their own programmes, across Jharkhand there will be a common agenda of reading out the pledge circulated as part of the National Campaign to Defend Democracy. But before reading out the pledge, members will read out the Preamble to the Constitution. We have circulated the pledge to the district representatives,” said Siraj Dutta of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha.

PUCL national general secretary Kavita Srivastava said: “The countrywide movement between August 15 and August 28 will call for an intensive campaign and street action to defend the right to dissent, repeal the sedition law, the UAPA and other repressive laws, restore the right to bail and ensure justice for Fr Stan Swamy. The state units will be chalking out their own manner of protest but the pledge, which has been drafted on the basis of consensus among all organisation, will be read out on August 15 all over the country.”

Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Fr Stan, who spent nine months in jail after being arrested in the Elgaar Parishad-Maoist links case, died in custody while waiting for bail. While in jail, he had challenged the UAPA in court.

Srivastava said the 165 groups that would be part of the National Campaign to Defend Democracy, including 50 national networks, would also organise programmes across the country on August 9 to demand justice for Fr Stan, seek compensation for all those booked under draconian laws and call for accountability of officials lodging such cases.

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), an independent entity not affiliated to any political party or organisation and is committed to legally defend civil liberties and democratic rights, on Tuesday released in Delhi the soft copy of their report titled Framed to Die: The Case of Stan Swamy.

“We released the report on August 6, which marked a month since Fr Stan Swamy passed away in judicial custody in a private hospital, a month in which no official inquiry, even the mandated magisterial inquest, had not been initiated. Framed to Die: The Case of Stan Swamy documents the manner in which he was framed, fettered and finally forced towards a fatal illness under due process of law called the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” said PUDR secretary Radhika Chitkara.

The 50-page report also documents why Fr Stan was a dissenter and a true patriot and why the State feared him and criminalised his dissent under the UAPA.



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