PUCL, Delhi, strongly deplores the notice of Delhi Police directing Gandhi Peace Foundation (GPF), New Delhi to cancel the meeting on “Media Blackout and State Repression in Kashmir” organized under the banner of ‘Campaign Against State Repression” (CASR) comprising various organizations to be held on 15th March,2023 at the GPF. The reason given by the police in its letter is that the police had received input about a disturbance to law and order in the area. Another reason given by the police is that no permission was sought from the police for holding the meeting.
It is obvious that the reasons advanced by the police do not hold any ground. The meeting was to be held inside the auditorium of the GPF and no permission is required to hold an indoor public meeting. There is no such law. If the police suspected any disturbance, it could have taken adequate measures to control the law and order situation. Large number of indoor public meetings are held in Delhi on various burning issues and there is no requirement to take permission.
Another reason given by the police is that an anonymous group was organizing the meeting and it could not verify the details of its members in spite of its efforts. This reason is also baseless. ‘Campaign against State Repression’ (CASR) is a well-known body of civil rights activists and organisations which has been organizing public meetings, demonstrations from time to time in Delhi and its activities are covered by the media. On 5th December 2022 it held a Press Conference at Surjit Bhawan, New Delhi demanding unconditional acquittal of Prof. G.N.Saibaba & others who have been in jail for years in cooked up charges in Bhima Koregaon case. This press conference was also addressed by D.Raja, well known leader of CPI. CASR also held a public hearing on 12th January 2023 at Surjit Bhawan demanding release of political prisoners framed under the yoke of laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act i,e, UAPA which was addressed by well-known professors and activists and was very well covered in the media.
This meeting on Kashmir was to be addressed by eminent personalities in public life like Justice Hussain Masoodi, a Rajya Sabha MP and retd. High court judge, Prof. Nandita Narain, well known activist and former Chairperson of DUTA, CPI(M) leader MY Tarigami, film maker Sanjay Kak and Mr. Shahid Saleem, the Chairman of the United Peace Alliance. All are well known figures in public life. It is quite clear that the law and order problem is not the issue, real motive was to gag the freedom of speech on an important public issue involving rights of the people of Kashmir. Banning an indoor public meeting is totally arbitrary, malicious and unconstitutional. Even during the infamous ‘emergency (June 1975 to March 1977) indoor meeting opposing ‘the emergency’ were not banned. The present government and the police must remember what Gandhi ji said as far back as 1921, in a message he wrote in Young India, “ In a democracy people are not like sheep. In democracy we must jealously guard freedom of expression and thought and action”
PUCL Delhi therefore urges upon the government and the Police to desist from following such unconstitutional and unlawful methods which are in violation of the constitutional rights of the citizens and are harmful to our democratic system.
N.D.Pancholi T.S.Ahuja Ashok Bharti
President General Secretary Secretary
PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES, (PUCL), DELHI