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Swapan Dasgupta: First Fatal Victim of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in WB

MASUM PRESS RELEASE, February 3, 2010

Swapan Dasgupta, becomes the first fatal victim of UAPA in West Bengal even before any trial, as he succumbs today (2nd February 2010) at about 5am to growing illness at SSKM Hospital, Kolkata. He was arrested under this Act on 06th October 2009 for publishing 'Peoples March' (in Bengali version), though the publication is still not banned. He was denied bail and detained under jail custody in appalling conditions. As he was a chronic asthma patient, distressing treatment at custody aggravated his illness. UAPA undoubtedly proves its cruel futurity.

As we informed that the inquest was done by Mr. Swapan Kumar Ghosh, Additional Commissioner of Police (4), South Division, Kolkata Police under Bhowanipur Police Station Inquest number 141. This very act was a gross violation of criminal procedure code of India. The government of West Bengal purposefully violated the section 176 (1A) of Cr. P.C. where it is mandatory that in case of any custodial death, the inquiry should be made only by a judicial (Metropolitan) Magistrate.

If India proclaims ­­to be a democratic state, it is supposed to ensure the 'right to oppose' and curbing the voice of opposition defies the basic premise of democracy. Application of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on Maoists and some other political persons in recent past in West Bengal manifests the tendency of defying democratic principles.

To be very precise, UAPA is nothing but the latest legal weapon by the state for arresting and detaining the people with dissent voices even before a fair trial and project it as preventive detention. The draconian law includes the provisions of repealed TADA and POTA, and surpasses all erstwhile criminal laws in ruthlessness.

During the debate of UAPA at Indian parliament, some of the parliamentarians opposed the law, especially those of CPI(M). However, contrary to their stance, West Bengal government, mainly ruled by the same party has been one of the frontrunners in implementing this draconian and anti-people law. Consequently, many persons who are otherwise 'innocent' have been arrested under this law. It clearly shows that though the parties differ on ideological plain, they are just different sides of same coin on the question of power structure.

MASUM (Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha) always stands against the violent politics, whether it is practiced by Maoists or any other political party. We understand that, if any political or non-political citizen involves in any violent action viz. murder, rape, destroying properties etc., the existing criminal laws are sufficient to penalize them to the highest degree. UAPA is completely uncalled for in this direction.

If one observes all social and political violence during previous 25-30 years in West Bengal, it would be evident that CPI(M), the leading party in the government, has been most instrumental behind them. It needs to be mentioned that most of the perpetrators are roaming scot-free with administrative patronage.

Following the tradition of procedural violation is adding 'feather to the flock'. Swapan Dasgupta, a detainee under UAPA has expired today due to extreme inhuman treatment at jail and hospital as well. We reckon his untimely death as judicial killing with utmost disregard towards law of the land.

The unfortunate incident is only an indication to the prevailing heinous criminal justice system which underlies UAPA also. Hence, we condemn the draconian law and demand repudiation of the same immediately.