Get Rid of Colonial-Era Draconian Laws like AFSPA and Sedition  

Indian Parliament promulgated the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act on May 22 1958 and passed it on August 18 the same year.
In the half century that has passed, the AFSPA has served as a tool of brutal repression and suppression, especially against the people of the North Eastern states and Kashmir. Irom Sharmila, the young woman poet from Manipur, has been on a fast-unto-death for the past decade, demanding that this abhorrent law, a blot for any democracy, be repealed. In 2004, women of Manipur staged an angry protest against rape and murder of a Manipuri woman by armed forces. This sparked off a renewed movement demanding repeal of the law.
But successive governments have continued to retain the AFSPA and trample on democratic rights of marginalised people. A law used by the colonial regime to subordinate and rule over the Indian people, is now used by the State in independent India to hold people seeking self-determination under military jackboots.
Under the AFSPA, even a non commissioned officer of the armed forces enjoys the ‘special’ power to kill on mere suspicion and get legal immunity from prosecution. It confers a sense of impunity on the armed forces, resulting in untold numbers of disappearances, outright murder and massacre in the name of ‘encounters’, torture, rape and sexual violence and a host of other horrific violations of human rights and civil liberties.  
The law is sought to be justified in the name of curbing insurgency. But ever since 1958, insurgency has only grown with the choking off of democracy and with inhuman repression in the regions where AFSPA has been imposed.   
In the wake of the powerful people’s movement in Manipur in 2004, the UPA-I had set up the Committee headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy in 2005 to review the AFSPA. The Jeevan Reddy Committee had recommended repeal of this law. The Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily in 2007 also recommended its repeal. Internationally, the UN bodies including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and recently the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders have consistently urged for its repeal. However the UPA-I and II is insisting on retaining this shameful law on the statues. 
We join democratic forces all over the country in demanding that the UPA Government
Immediately repeal The Armed Forces (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) Special Powers Act, 1958 (as amended in 1972), and The Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990
Refrain from inserting any part of the Acts into any other legislation granting unbridled powers to the armed forces of the union or the State police
Immediately work out and announce a phased, time-bound demilitarisation plan to withdraw the Army and other paramilitary forces from internal security duties in NE States and J&K.
Endorsing the call issued by human rights groups, we call for nationwide actions between May 22 and August 18, demanding a repeal of this draconian law. We also demand the scrapping of other colonial-era laws like the Sedition Law which is being used to politically persecute hundreds of activists and ordinary people; as well as other draconian laws like the UAPA, MCOCA and CSPSA.

Students and youth all over the country have launched a campaign against corruption and for democracy. While demanding anti-corruption laws and an end to the policies that facilitate corruption, they will also demand an end to the colonial-era repressive laws and draconian laws that are a shame for an independent and democratic country.

POSCO Project:
No to Corporate Corruption and Loot!   

(The Ministry of Environment and Forest has given its ‘green’ signal for forest and environmental clearance to the Korean company POSCO, paving the way for rampantly illegal land acquisition in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha. This has been done ignoring the resolutions by the Palli Sabhas of Dhinkia and Govindpur in which 65 % of the villagers participated and rejected the proposal to divert land.

Not long ago, when the UPA Government had been forced to distance itself from the Vedanta project, Rahul Gandhi had called himself the ‘soldier’ of the adivasis of Odisha in their battle against land grab. The ‘soldier’ is silent now as his Government colludes with the Odisha Government to wage war on laws, democracy and people’s survival – all to appease huge MNCs.

Around 20 platoons of police are camped at Balithutha , the strategic entry point to the proposed acquisition site. The administration is forcibly entering villages and planning to destroy the betel vines, take into control the plantations, prawn cultivation areas, agricultural lands and the homestead land of the people.

On May 19, the CPI (ML) Liberation along with SUCI, CPI (ML) and CPI (ML) New Democracy held a protest rally at the Odisha Bidhan Sabha against the land grab and repression at POSCO. 

Below are excerpts from a letter to the PM by anti-corruption activists and other social activists, which point to the linkages between corruption and corporate land grab.) 
Dear Prime Minister,
In the context of the recent national debates on corruption, we wish to draw your attention to another ongoing case in which both State and Central officials are blatantly favouring a private multinational company - Pohang Steel Corporation (POSCO) - in violation of law. ...
The proposed POSCO steel project in Orissa is incredibly lucrative - POSCO will make an estimated profit of Rs. 1,95,000 crores over the life of the project (Rs. 6,500 crore per year after all expenses) just on the basis of having captive iron ore mines. ...We cannot see any difference between the recent handover of 2G spectrum and the seeming collusion in the POSCO case, where it seems that equally valuable resources - iron ore, land, water, a natural harbour - are being sought to be given to a private company “on the cheap” without complying with the law. As such, the public has a right to know what has happened. It is vital that a transparent, public investigation is held into the actions of State and Central officials in this case. A few examples of such actions are as follows:
•         A criminal complaint has been filed by villagers in the proposed steel plant area against the District Collector for repeatedly lying on record. For instance, he claimed on 01.03.2011 that the land had no forest prior to 1930 - when six months earlier an Enquiry Committee had found that the government’s own maps show the villages as surrounded by forests in 1928. The Collector also claims there are no forest dwelling STs when the government’s own public notice showed compensation payments to two STs in July 2010 when a small area of land was illegally taken for the project. ... The Environment Ministry, whose own committee had proved that these statements were false, simply carried on accepting them without a murmur.
•         ...It is notable that the first environmental clearance for this project was given in May 2007, when A. Raja was the Environment Minister. Since then, and especially after December 2009, the Ministry has adopted a “musical chairs” approach; every time a violation has been exposed, the Ministry has shifted the focus to some other issue, trying to appear “sensitive” while condoning the illegality. Committee after committee reached the same conclusion that the Forest Rights Act had been violated; their findings were simply buried and never referred to again. Every violation of environmental law that was raised was converted into a vague “condition” and left to the company to implement. Such actions show systematic bias and a deep contempt for the law.
•         According to a report in the Telegraph newspaper on April 20th, POSCO-India claims to have spent Rs. 3,000 crores on the project so far - while employing less than 80 people, and without beginning any construction. What has this money been spent on?
•         The majority report of the POSCO Enquiry Committee exposed that minutes of official meetings were being changed to favour the company and that there was pressure from the Finance Ministry during the environment clearance process. This finding too was ignored. After giving his final decision on this project the Environment Minister gave a speech on May 6th in which he declared that he is sometimes “forced to... condone environmental violations.” Meanwhile, the requirement for the consent of the gram sabhas (village assemblies) for diversion of forest land - intended to make the process open and democratic, and the only opportunity for real public control - has been entirely ignored. To ignore democratic processes required by law, while engaging in backdoor manipulation, is a particularly noxious form of corruption.
As citizens of this country we have a right to know how and why our natural resources are being handed over to this company and why these decisions were taken. We therefore call upon the State and Central governments to:
•         grant sanction for prosecution of the District Collector and ensure that the case is investigated by the CBI;
•         initiate a public judicial inquiry into the actions of Central and State agencies and into expenditure by the POSCO company;
•         prosecute those found guilty of criminal offences by the inquiry;
•         Halt all steps to implement this project pending the completion of these processes.


Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal, Swami Agnivesh, Aruna Roy, Vandana Shiva