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PROTEST MEETING Against State’s Frontal Attack on Right to expression, association and dissent (New Delhi, April 29)

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State’s Frontal Attack on Right to expression, association and dissent

29th April 2015: 3.00 p.m.

YWCA –Blue Triangle Auditorium, Near Banglasahib Gurudwara, New Delhi

Criminalising dissent, illegitimising people’s organisations and repressing freedom of expression has reached its zenith in India. Successive governments have perceived voices of dissent and peaceful expressions of protests as hurdles to their grand plans of large industrial corridors, mega energy projects, infrastructure projects and privatisation of natural resources. The last few years have witnessed unprecedented crackdown on organisations and individuals who are seemed to be either protesting or amplifying the local voices of protests.

What one is witnessing is a systematic design to discredit and illegitimise people’s organisations on the one hand, and amending laws and policies without engaging in a democratic process to support the corporations, on the other. Ordinance to amend the key sections of Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, dilution of Forest Rights Act, revision of laws like the Indian Forest Act, 1927; Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; National Forest Policy, 1988; and, the National Wildlife Policy, 2002 for ‘ease of business’ are only a few to name. What might have made the design complete could be the recent ‘request’ of Environment Ministry to Supreme Court to free the process of wildlife clearance for infrastructure projects from the apex court’s monitoring, citing delays due to the “extremely convoluted and time consuming” procedure.

A near to complete takeover of the government by the corporations and a hastened handover of natural resources and public sector projects to corporations have only made the situation worse. A hitherto nexus between the two, often hidden and behind the curtains, have come out in the open, each vying to publicly flaunt their cosy relation.

The designs to disrobe people of their rights, snatch away their livelihood and surrender the natural resources have met with protests in different parts of the country. One can witness small, but spirited, struggles against large energy projects, mega dams, industrial corridors, slum demolition and many such. Some of those struggles have made linkages with organisations, to support them with information, analysis and sometimes, targeting financiers of such destructive projects.

The Government seems to be worried about these increasing protests and the growing linkages. In what seem to be an attempt to quell the reverberation of protests, a multifaceted attack is launched on organisations. On the one hand a vilifying campaign is carried out to make these people’s organisations look anti-nationals, criminalise their activities and on the other, laws governing non-profit sector are tightened and used to victimise those who stand by the struggles. This squeezes the space for dissenting views and carrying out democratic activities. It undermines the fundamental rights ‘freedom of association’ and ‘freedom of expression’ as provided in the Constitution.

In this context, Janadhikar Sangharsh Samiti is calling a meeting of likeminded people and organisations on April 29, 2015 to understand the larger political and legal implications of these actions, to hear the experiences of different organisations who have been in the receiving end in the recent past and to chalk out a way forward to assert the right to association, right to dissent and freedom of expression.

We are looking forward to seeing you there.

In Solidarity

Ashok Chowdhury, Anil Chaudhary

(9868857723, 9811119347)

for Janadhikar Sangharsh Samiti

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