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Lok Sabha clears changes to UAPA, nod to term persons as terrorists

Home Minister Amit Shah speaking in the Lok Sabha on July 24, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Lok Sabha TV

“We are bringing in laws that will end terrorism in the country and we promise that the government will never misuse it. Terrorism has to be dealt with, with strict laws,” Home Minister Amit Shah said in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. He was speaking during the debate on amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Bill,2019.

The Bill was later passed in the Lower House with 284 votes in favour and eight against after the Opposition walked out in protest, terming it draconian and demanding that it be referred to a standing committee for scrutiny. The provisions of the Bill allow the government to designate individuals suspected to have terror links as “terrorists”.

While this was vehemently opposed by Opposition leaders, Mr Shah said: “There’s a need for a provision to declare an individual as a terrorist. The UN has a procedure for it, the U.S. has it, even Pakistan has it, China, Israel, European Union... Everyone has done it.”

He pointed out that if a terror organisation was banned, a terrorist could easily set up another.

Several opposition leaders, including Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra objected to the changes saying the law could be misused to target individuals

“If the Centre wants to target someone, they will get them somehow with the help of some law. Opposition leaders, minorities, right activists and others, if they disagree with the homogenous idea of India that this government is trying to thrust upon us, the opposition runs the risk of being labelled as anti-national,” Ms. Moitra said.

“Why is the Opposition called anti-national every time we disagree with the government on issues of national security, policing,” she asked.

‘Urban Maoists’

Replying to the Opposition’s allegations that anyone who questioned the government is termed as anti-national, Mr. Shah said no one would harass genuine social activists.

“There are in fact many social activists who are doing good work... But we will smash the Urban maoists. Let me make it very clear — the government has zero tolerance towards them and we need tough laws to prevent this,” the Home Minister asserted.

“The amendments that we have brought in will help us take four steps ahead of terrorists and their dubious plans and that is what our country needs now,” he added.

The Home Minister also accused the Congress of double-speak, pointing out that they had in brought in the law to control terrorism and then followed it up with amendments in 2004, 2008 and 2013.

Through the discussion, several Opposition leaders strongly opposed the Bill. N.K. Premachandran (RSP) said innocent people would be harassed by the law which would allow the Centre to interfere into matters dealt with by the States.

“We can’t give up individual rights. Many of us in this House started our life as activists. The right to dissent must be protected,” said Karti Chidambaram of the Congress.

“When you (Opposition) question us, you don’t see who brought the law and amendments, who made it stringent” It was brought when you were in power, what you did then was right and what I’m doing now is also right,” Mr. Shah said.

“A government fights terrorism; it shouldn’t matter which party is in power,” he added.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 6:45:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lok-sabha-passes-anti-terror-bill-to-designate-a-person-as-terrorist/article28698696.ece

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