Withdraw the Prosecution
It bears noting that the sanction given by the LG for prosecuting Arundhati Roy and Showkat Husain for offences u/s 153A, 153B and 505 IPC is hit by Sec. 468 CrPC which bars courts from taking cognisance of cases after a delay of 3 years when the offences carry a maximum sentence of 3 years. It seems plausible that the LG’s sanction to prosecute for offences under section 13 UAPA (which carries a sentence of 7 years) after a gap of fourteen years is to get over this legal hurdle.

The invocation of the UAPA by the LG is politically motivated, patently unconscionable and vindictive. Prima facie, it does not flow out of any concern for national security or national interest but seeks to deploy the UAPA as a tool to serve one’s political masters. This is obvious from the fact that it is not even the LG’s case that the speeches made by Arundhati Roy and others at a convention on Kashmir, ‘Azadi: The Only Way’, organised in New Delhi in October 2010 provoked violent disturbance in 2024, thereby necessitating urgent legal action under the UAPA!

A mature constitutional democracy ought not to prosecute speech, which by itself has no direct causal connection to violence or disorder. It is shameful that an FIR was even registered for speech which by all accounts did not incite or provoke any form of violence and even more reprehensible that the LG has granted sanction to prosecute, that too in 2024!

We condemn this knee-jerk reaction to grant sanction to prosecute an alleged offence committed almost fourteen years ago as nothing other than an attempt by the administration to intimidate and browbeat courageous writers and thinkers who dare to speak truth to power.
Kavita Srivastava, President, PUCL
Dr V. Suresh, Gen. Secretary, PUCL

Greater Nicobar International Airport
Social Welfare Dept
A&N Administration
It is unfortunate that the Social Impact Assessment Report was prepared by a so-called “consultant” who does not appear to have an understanding of the socio-economic milieu of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, in particular of the presence of highly vulnerable tribal groups, namely, Shompens and Nicobarese. Any project in Greater Nicobar Island, irrespective of its location and the extent of land occupied, has both direct and indirect impacts on those two tribal groups but the SIA report is totally silent on it.

Apparently, the Social Welfare Department is unaware of the Constitutional protection conferred on such tribals and the likely impact of such a huge project and its downstream implications in terms of tourism and increased footprint on the Tribal Reserve declared under A&N Islands Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation (ANIPATR) notified through a Presidential Proclamation in 1956 under Article 243(2) of the Constitution.

Section 11 of the above cited Constitutional Regulation prohibits the application of any other law that violates the intent of that Regulation.

Any social impact study of such a huge project, if it fails to evaluate its impact on the Tribal Reserve declared as such under ANIPATR, would have no legal validity. An SIA study of this kind in which the impact of a project on aboriginal tribes cannot be done by any agency without expert inputs from reputed anthropologists and, in particular from the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) that has done studies on Shompens and Nicobarese, would be misleading and meaningless.

If the A&N administration can get an SIA study prepared with help from ASI, such a study needs to be placed before the Tribal Council constituted under Section 3(1) of ANIPATR for their prior consent, without which the whole process of the SIA would stand legally vitiated.

I, therefore, demand that the SIA study prepared at such a high cost to the public exchequer without complying with the statutory requirements be withdrawn forthwith.
Yours faithfully,
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to the Government of India, Visakhapatnam

Theatre for the Oppressed
“Growing up, we struggled a lot. After realising how unfairly scheduled caste and tribe members are treated in society and how we are discriminated against, we decided to form a group to collectively fight for our rights. The Adivasi Dalit Students Theatre Movement is a result of that,” said Jishnu, a founding member.

Though there are several Dalit/Adivasi theatre groups across the country, this could be the first students’ initiative, the members said.

On how the idea became a reality, Kallu Kalyani, a theatre artist, said she and Jishnu, along with a few friends, formed the troupe Plaphy in 2018.

“Plaphy used to write and perform street plays… taking up the Madhu murder case, the Kathua rape case, etc. However, we couldn’t continue with it as the members joined new courses or left for higher studies. The idea of a theatre movement again came to our minds when Jishnu and I were studying at the Thrissur School of Drama,” said Kallu, who is now an active member of the movement.

Started with three persons, the theatre group now has around 30 members from across the state of Kerala.

“Several orientation sessions, in collaboration with the Adishakti Summer School, helped create awareness among the community members about the situation and in mobilising them,” Jishnu pointed out.

Recently a team of 10 from the movement performed ‘Engale Oche’, a dramatic adaptation of C Ayyappan’s short story ‘Ente Kathayile Ningal’.

At a time when the Constitution and the Ambedkarite ideologies are being questioned, the group felt it was important to tell society about the lives of scheduled caste and tribe people and their lives and struggles.
Through the play, the movement is attempting to express everything from their political point of view.
Anna Jose, Kerala

Social Media and Democracy
After Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, he went to the United States and hugged Mark Zuckerberg. That photograph reminds people of the power of social media in manipulating democratic outcomes. NarendraModi is not an outlier.

Aided by social media, Barack Obama and Donald Trump rose to prominence and took charge as successive Presidents of the United States of America. In the United Kingdom, the vote on the Brexit referendum was influenced mainly by micro-targeting and manipulating social media audiences. The Arab Spring, primarily an outcome of Twitter, sprung not from the Middle East but from algorithms developed by the engineers at Twitter in the United States.

The consequences of producing, distributing and consuming content without editorial filters are enormous. Algorithms designed to generate a maximum number of views and maximum revenue for the shareholders of social media companies are seriously manipulating democratic outcomes in countries worldwide. And India is no exception. Modi’s party–BharatiyaJanata Party–used social media extensively to influence voters.

Examples are aplenty of how social media platforms and their algorithms aid and abet revolutions and manipulate electoral outcomes.
Team Madras Courier

A Selfless Servant of Tribals
Thakkar Bapa was a giant among social servants in India. Bapa was a pioneer in the service of the tribal community in India. He began by serving the tribals of the Panchmahal region in Gujarat. In 1914, he resigned from Bombay Municipality and joined the Servants of India Society, established by Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

During the years 1920 and 1921, Gujarat was under the grip of severe famine. The Servants of India Society assigned the famine relief work in Gujarat to Thakkar Bapa. Here, he came into contact with the Bhil tribals living in the Dahod and Jhalodtaluks. He soon realised that a lot of hard work was needed to raise the living standards of the Bhils. It ran a number of schools to serve the educational needs of the Bhil children. It opened two dispensaries to deliver medicines. A large number of wells were constructed for the benefit of the Bhils. It also undertook temperance work to wean the Bhils off the drunken habit. Bapa realised that the Bhils were incurring debts for agricultural purposes. They were heavily indebted to moneylenders.

Bapa was eager to serve the tribal communities across India. He visited the Bastar state of the Central Provinces, AkraniMahal in West Khandesh, SanthalParganas of Bihar and Bengal, South Orissa, hill districts of Assam, and Naga Hills. He studied the conditions of indigenous tribes in these regions. Thakkar Bapa’s expertise in tribal affairs was sought after by many provincial governments. In 1948, he formed a federation called Bharatiya Adim Jati Sevak Sangh with Dr Rajendra Prasad as president to serve the tribals.

Visakh S M

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Vol 57, No. 1, Jun 30 - Jul 6, 2024