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Saturday, May 30, 2015

India- I was jailed on suspicion of being a Maoist. Kerala verdict could save others from my fate

From Maoist Road:

By Arun Ferreira
“Are you a Maoist?” a trial court Judge asked one of my co-accused.
Both of us had been charged with theft and violence Maharashtra’s
Gondia district.
My co-accused was confused. In theory, during a trial, the accused
person is given an opportunity to offer an explanation for any
evidence presented against him. In this particular case, a policeman
had testified that my co-accused and I were members of the banned
Communist Party of India (Maoist). Though the charges against us were
about an act of violence, the testimony of the witness related to
membership of a banned organisation and we were being questioned about
our adherence to an ideology. We shouldn’t have been surprised. These
misinterpretations of the law are a regular feature of arrests,
detentions and prosecutions of people like us who are determined to be
“left-wing extremists”.
Against this background, we must heartily welcome Friday’s ruling by
Justice A Muhamed Mustaque of the Kerala High Court stating that
merely being a Maoist is not a crime. Upholding Voltaire in his
oft-quoted words “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll
defend to death, your right to say it”, Justice Mustaque clarified
that though the political ideology of Maoists is incongruous with the
philosophy of India’s Constitution, he nevertheless believes that it
is a basic human right for people to have aspirations.
Established principle
“Police cannot detain a person merely because he/she is a Maoist, unless the
police form a reasonable opinion that his activities are unlawful,”
he declared, reiterating the legal principles laid down by the higher
judiciary over the years. While granting bail to the pediatrician and
human rights activist, Binayak Sen in April 2011, the Supreme Court
had observed that though Sen may be a Maoist sympathiser, that did not
automatically make him guilty of sedition. Drawing an analogy, the
court questioned whether it would be proper to draw an inference that
a person is a Gandhian merely because Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography
was found in his possession.

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