‘Court kutcheri’ Rap for Irom Sharmila #Raptivism #Protest #AFSPA


NEW DELHI, May 23, 2013

 

Sowmiya Ashok

Activists in support of Irom Sharmila hold a music satyagraha outside the Patiala house court complex in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V.V.Krishnan
Activists in support of Irom Sharmila hold a music satyagraha outside the Patiala house court complex in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V.V.Krishnan
TOPICS

Failure of democracy in Manipur could spell doom for entire country: activist

A Mumbai-based rapper and an alternative jazz duo, wearing garlands, carrying guitars, and accompanied by students and trade unionists — this motley group, which gathered on the lawns of the Patiala House Courts Complex early on Wednesday, attracted questions from the Intelligence Bureau, warranted notes in a police diary and brought in curious bystanders.

The usually laidback morning hours at the court complex were replaced by a “peaceful, non-violent open air jam” to support Irom Sharmila Chanu at her next Delhi trial. It was another matter that, a few hours later, Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain postponed the recording of prosecution evidence in a case against the rights activist to August 30, after Ms. Sharmila could not appear in court.

The piercing sounds of the trumpet in Aditi Veena’s hands announced the beginning of the ‘Musical Jam’ for which invites went out on social networking sites as early as mid-April. With 700 confirmed attendees on Tuesday night, the musicians were slightly taken aback at the initial sparse turnout — 15 persons — at half-past-eight. “We don’t know why we don’t have more people here but we are in need of some enlightenment, some illumination….,” said Mark Aranha, who, along with Aditi, forms the jazz duo Ditty & Mark.

A few songs later and the venue shifted from the garden inside the court complex to the footpath outside the main gate — so the media could take part as well. The venue change also prompted freelance rapper Ashwini Mishra aka ‘A-List’ to render Iron Lady, which he said had been a ‘work-in-progress’ for over a year. “That is right. It is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act… it is time for the people to take the power back…” he rapped, a year after he got back to the art-form after a sabbatical. “My second innings, so to speak, has been much more political,” he said.

The intent was a peaceful satyagraha which was in “no way anti-Army, anti-India or anti-security forces” but one which believed that “human rights is sacred.” But on the footpath outside the courts, the clash of class and language were palpable. “Everything is in English from the lyrics to the placards. How will anyone who walks past know what is going on?” commented a bystander.

It was trade union activist Alok Kumar’s first ‘musical protest,’ which he admitted made him uncomfortable but at the same time opened up new ways of doing things. “We are, in a way, positive about the gathering but this kind of performance has the potential to alienate people,” he observed. “We should be looking at a new form of art which can create a dialogue among people.”

A member of the North-East Forum for International Solidarity, Mr. Kumar felt it was important to understand the art form being presented and make it more context-specific.

“More and more people should know and relate to the issue. Failure of democracy in Manipur could create a condition where democracy can be killed in India.”

 

SC notice to Centre on PIL to bring IB, RAW under statute


Express news service : New Delhi, Tue Feb 12 2013, 03:00 hrs

The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre on a PIL demanding regulatory mechanism and accountability of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) under a statutory regime.

Also issuing notices to the three intelligence agencies, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir asked them to file replies within six weeks.

The Bench requested Attorney General G E Vahanvati to assist the court on the next date of hearing.

Earlier, senior advocates Anil Divan and Prashant Bhushan brought to the notice of the court that petitioner NGO ‘CPIL’ has amended the prayers of the writ and instead of a directive to the Centre, they now sought a declaration that RAW, IB and NTRO, “which are functioning without any appropriate legislative oversight are a threat to the rule of law and fundamental rights”.

Questioning the very basis of policing powers being exercised by the agencies in absence of any statutory provision, Divan said that phone tapping and audio-video recording were examples of powers that these agencies exercised without being authorised under any law.

Citing excerpts from the books written by a few former intelligence agencies’ officers, the lawyer said their writings highlighted several instances of illegalities and corrupt practices.

The court however refused to entertain this argument. “Somebody says something in his book will be a matter of personal opinion. Conversation between a former Prime Minister and an officer cannot be a subject matter of this petition,” it said.

Divan then said the Bench should, in the larger interest of public, admit this petition since the actions of the agencies pertained to violation of the right to privacy.

“The court needs to look at the issue. All we want is a mechanism where these agencies are made accountable. Let the Supreme Court issue some guidelines. The court should also take into account a possibility of every state having one such agency of its own by way of an executive order,” argued Divan.

The Bench then allowed amendments in the prayers and issued notice.

The petition has sought regulation of the intelligence agencies in line with the supervisory mechanisms available in the USA and the UK.

Seeking to bring the agencies under an Act to be passed by Parliament and to ensure they are not misused by the government, CPIL claimed that the agencies were acting “without any sanction of the law” and hence violated the rule of law as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.

It has also asked for audit of these agencies by the Comptroller and Auditor General since they were funded by public money.

 

People under surveillance, Privacy law for whom ?


November 5, 2012
by Ranjit Sur, sanhati.com
India is probably heading for enactment of an Individual Privacy Law. On 16 October, the fourteen member committee headed by Justice(Rtd) A P Shah submitted its report to the Planning Commission, which had initiated the process by forming this committee. In its 90 page report, the committee tried to address the complexities of the issue. Justice Shah in his forwarding letter wrote, “So we can expect an initiative for enactment of the law soon”. At the same time, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also expressed his desire to have such a law while expressing his concern for misuse of RTI act by “frivolous and vexatious use of the Act”. “The citizens’ right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone’s personal privacy. The issue of a separate legislation on privacy is under consideration of an expert group under Justice AP Shah.” He said this while addressing a convention of Information Commissioners recently.
The day Manmohan Singh’s speech was reported, the New Delhi edition of The Hindu published an interesting report with the heading “10,000 phones, 1,000 e-mail IDs under the scanner” . The report informed, “Today, various law enforcement agencies are tapping almost 10,000 phones across India, while over 1,000 e-mail accounts are under the scanner, after clearance from the union Home Secretary. …In August this year, the maximum number of phones were being tapped by the Intelligence Bureau (5,966) of which 2,135 were fresh interceptions, while 3,831 were in continuation. Similarly, the State Intelligence units were tapping 1,104 phones (577 fresh and 527 in continuation) followed by the Andhra Pradesh Police with 863 phone interceptions (399 fresh and 464 in continuation) and the Delhi Police with 757 phones (738 fresh and 19 in continuation). ………. In the case of e-mails, the IB was snooping on 1,043 IDs in August — 460 under fresh sanction and 583 in continuation, while the State Intelligence units were tracking 136 (94 fresh and 42 in continuation); the DRI took permission from the Union Home Secretary to track 5 accounts….. Notably, to avoid any leaks, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed capabilities to intercept phones without keeping telephone operators in the loop. Called the “Central Monitoring System”, its trials are currently on and the system is likely to be in place early next year.”
So it is clear that the Government of India is tapping and hacking hundreds and thousands of phones and emails; thus violating individual privacy of hundreds and thousands of citizens. It is known to all that the unofficial figures of tapped-phones/hacked-emails are perhaps much higher than what The Hindu reported. Almost all the State Governments tap phones of innumerable opposition leader and activists. Even the Chief Minister of Bengal Ms Mamata Banerjee recently complained that her phone was being tapped by the Central Government. Hundreds of activists in Bengal paradoxically also complain of their phone being tapped by WB Government. So the question is, for whom the privacy law will be enacted?
In August 2011, Mr. Milind Deora, the Central Minister of State for Communication in a written statement in the Rajya Sabha, informed that the Central Government has started full surveillance of Facebook and Twitter walls and friend circles. All the comments, write-ups on walls are under full scanner of investigative agencies. Not only that, the Government has acquired technology to block and monitor websites and blogs, locally and centrally. On many occasions, The Hoot has reported many such misdeeds of the government. Recently Facebook, Twitter and You Tube were blocked in Jammu and Kashmir. Sites of cartoonist Asim Trivedi and Kamayani Bali were also blocked. Section 66(A) of the IT ACT has become a source of tension for many activists. Many mobile phones of Bengal activists have been disconnected for alleged misuse of this Act. Actually any one can be sent to jail for violation of this section on ‘Offensive SMS’ where ‘offensive’ is defined in such a manner. So again a question arises – do lakhs of Facebook-Twitter users not have the right to privacy? Don’t they have the freedom of expression and right to information and communication as enshrined in Indian constitution? For whom will the Individual Privacy Law be enacted? Who are these individuals?
One more Act which is waiting in queue, as reported in DNA dated 16 May 2012, needs serious attention of the Civil Society. The report, DNA profiling: Very soon, govt will know you inside out reported, “In a controversial move that threatens to increase the intrusion by the state into the lives of ordinary citizens, the UPA government is set to introduce a DNA Profiling Bill in the winter session of Parliament. Once it becomes a law, the bill will grant the authority to collect vast amount of sensitive DNA data of citizens even if they are “suspects” in a criminal case. The data will be held till the person is cleared by court…The bill has already raised the hackles of many groups working on privacy issues who are worried that if it becomes a law, it would empower the government to create intrusive databases.”
Moreover, there is the UID Project, which would cost approximately 45 thousand crores of Rupees. The Biometric card AADHAAR containing the unique number will store all information of an individual and will have to be used in all purposes of life. Information pertaining to all individuals will be centrally maintained in a server. An “enter” will give all the details of an individual’s movements, sales and purchases, financial details, readings, medical bills etc. It will be an all-pervasive unique instrument of state vigilance on an individual for 24×7, 365 days. So the question once again, for whom will the Privacy Law be enacted?
The A P Shah committee was formed after the episode of the Tata- Radia tape leaks. Ratan Tata himself raised the question of Individual’s right to privacy. Members of different chambers of commerce also raised the issue of right to privacy. So the Government rushed to form the AP Shah Committee. This time Manmohan Singh himself is not at all ambiguous and clearly announced for whom the law is needed and for whom he is concerned. In the above-mentioned meeting of Information Officers, he clearly noted that industrialists should be kept out of RTI purview so that their individual privacy is not violated. One more indication was clearly there when he mentioned “frivolous and vexatious use of the act ” – he was referring the DLF-Vadra deals and it seems that he is willing to save people like son-in- law of the Nation, Robert Vadra, from public scrutiny. So, while 10 lakh applications were filed in a single year under RTI act last year, the men in power and those surrounding them are actively seeking a law of individual privacy. Similarly, civil society and rights activists also wish to have a privacy law to save the citizen’s every day life from continuous state intrusion. But how far they will be able to get the interests of the common people reflected in the new law is a million rupee question and to be seen in the near future.
[ The writer is a Kolkata based Rights activist ]