Friday, Sep 26, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
The speakers at the meeting, organised by the Delhi University Forum for Democracy, spoke of the assault on human rights and democratic freedoms by the "war against terrorism" and the misuse of laws like POTA. The two together had liberated the police and the courts from any deference to due process in law, they said.
The investigation and trial of the December 13 Parliament attack case and of the Godhra carnage were, according to them, illustrative of this misdirected "war" and misused law. Human Rights activist Gautam Navlakha said the relationship between facts, evidence and proof had been turned inside out by ignoring all rules of procedures set down for investigation. S.A.R. Geelani, the Delhi University lecturer sentenced to death in the case, had been convicted with "literally no evidence". Neither he nor the others convicted in the case had been given a fair trial, his lawyer, Nandita Haksar, said.
Drawing on this, Ms. Roy said, "we have sentenced Geelani to death for a phone call from his brother asking for a prospectus, while the butchers who raped women and slit their stomachs, killed Ehsan Jafri and others are free". This state of affairs, she said, was not simply because of bad leaders. They had not re-elected themselves in Gujarat. It was the people of Gujarat.
"There is something pitiable about a people who constantly bemoans its leaders; civil society has failed its leaders as much as their leaders have failed civil society." Ms. Roy said it was time to reclaim the space for civil disobedience, "time to fight the war that is upon us".
A message of solidarity from Noam Chomsky for the Delhi University Teachers' campaign in support of Mr. Geelani was also read out at the meeting. In his message, Prof. Chomsky expressed the hope that "Indian democracy and its legal system will rise to challenge this decision, reverse this decision and ensure that human rights and civil rights are properly protected."
Speaking on the connection between imperialism and human rights, Prof. Patnaik noted that in the name of fighting terrorism, nations were "making an assault on human rights" and this was a phenomenon not confined to India. Just as the "war against terrorism" was global, so was the assault on human rights in the name of fighting terrorism.
The U.S.-led neo-imperialist aggression, he said, was supported by client regimes which, among other things, assisted in the transfer of control over their precious natural resources.
Unlike the period leading to independence, Prof. Patnaik said there were no mass-based secular, forward-looking and socially transforming organisations confronting this new imperialism today because "democracy was under attack in the name of the anti-terrorist fight".
"The more you suppress democracy the more terrorism remains the only weapon. This elementary point is lost on those who claim to be fighting global terrorism."
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