Anti-terrorism law unjust, say lawmakers
Claims that Muslim youths are being targeted after bombings
Some lawmakers are demanding a parliamentary amendment to existing anti-terrorist laws, saying Muslims are being unduly targeted in the wake of recent bombings in Hyderabad that killed 16 and injured 117.
There has been "miscarriage of justice" to scores of Muslim youths, who have been arrested on suspicion of having links with terror acts, Marxist Party leader Basudeb Acharia said on Tuesday in the lower house of parliament.
He wants the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to be amended. Under the broad terms of the UAPA, a person can be arrested and jailed if his actions are interpreted as questioning the territorial integrity of the country or causing disaffection to India.
The UAPA also makes it a crime to support any secessionist movement or to support territorial claims to land in India by a foreign power.
Following objections from civil rights groups, the government repealed the stringent Prevention of Terrorism Act in 2004, two years after it was enacted, but most of its provisions were incorporated in the UAPA.
West Bengali MP Saugata Roy, whose Trinamool Congress Party is a rival to the Marxists, agreed that thre law is flawed as it stands.
"In the name of controlling terror, it takes away peoples' rights,” he said, citing an instance when Muslim youths were killed during a controversial police encounter in Delhi in 2008.
Leaders of two other regional parties also spoke against the UAPA.
MP Lalu Prasad said security agencies target Muslim-dominated areas in his Bihar state and have recently arrested 33 Muslim youths in connection with terrorism.
The socialist Samajwadi Party government of Uttar Pradesh has decided to re-examine cases involving 21 Muslim youths accused of terrorist acts, said fellow MP Mulayam Singh.
The lawmakers brought up the UAPA after a wave of speculation over the recent bombings, which Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has already connected with the execution of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru, two Muslims convicted of terrorist activities. The Hyderabad investigation remains open.
"We have been giving terror alerts throughout the country. We were expecting, when there have been two executions in the country, some reactions to happen," Shinde told reporters in Kolkata last week.
Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association, a body of Muslim educationalists in New Delhi, has protested against the manner in which the Hyderabad bombings are being linked to the executions.
"In a grotesque replay of every investigation that follows a bomb blast, prejudice, misinformation and media blitz rules. The same suspects and shadowy organizations are being paraded as executors of the Hyderabad bombings," the association said in a statement.
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Negotiations will be hampered by the government's unwillingness to discuss historical root causes of the conflict