National Convention in Defense of Democratic Rights
Date : 31st August - 1st September 2019 ; ITO, New Delhi

Democracy today is at crossroads with systematic assaults on institutions which constitute the fabric of Indian democracy. The threat faced by human rights activists and people’s movements are of a very serious order with the undermining of the cherished constitutional freedoms of association, expression, and speech.

Of grave concern are recent amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) empowering government to brand, without due process, any person 'a terrorist', the strengthening of the National Investigation Agency Act (NIA) and the dilution of Protection of Human Rights Act. The persistence with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the threat of a nationwide NRC, the undemocratic abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir are all steps to legislatively institutionalize an authoritarian state.

With a virtual single-party rule in the country, this assault on democratic rights takes on a totalitarian character. The attack on the Dalit movement over the last several years and particularly after the Bhima Koregaon incident of January 2018 is another example of a government which refuses to adhere to the Constitution. Nine human rights defenders have been arrested under the UAPA since then, on various false charges and concocted evidence, while the real perpetrators of the violence at Bhima Koregaon roam free. Several others also remain under the threat of arrest. An alarming number of nearly 12,000 persons have died — either in jail or in police custody - in the last five years of BJP rule.

The use of UAPA and other draconian laws to intimidate and threaten dissenters is not new, but clearly, the situation is steadily worsening. It is challenging to ensure that courts perform their constitutional role and remain vigilant in the protection of democratic and constitutional rights. It is a travesty that Prof. GN Saibaba of Delhi University, who is almost completely disabled and now in a very critical health condition, is not even allowed access to medical care whilst in jail.

Adivasis, Dalits, and Muslims are repeatedly arrested on false charges and even industrial workers demanding workers’ rights have been jailed under UAPA, as in the case of Reliance workers in Mumbai. In Assam, thousands are being illegally held in ‘detention centers’ for years. Several Dalit activists were arrested, brutalized and even killed after the 2nd April 2018 protests against the dilution of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Many are still in jail even today. The daily brutality against Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha is on the rise. We have now reached a stage where filing false cases against academics, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, and trade unionists who are well known for exposing the truth and/or dissenting against actions of this Government is fast becoming normal.

Violence against dissenters and vulnerable groups like Dalits and Muslims are being tacitly encouraged by the State and the ruling BJP. Almost no punitive action is taken against such violence. Recently, a court in Alwar has acquitted all accused in the case of lynching of Pehlu Khan. In recent years we have seen the murders of Gauri Lankesh, Govind Pansare, and Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburggi organized by Hindutva extremists as well as innumerable instances of Hindutva violence against Dalits and Muslims.

In these challenging times, it’s even more important that we come together, break the sense of isolation in which the state has imprisoned us, form solidarities and fight to preserve our constitutional freedoms and the cherished right to dissent.

The National convention is being organized for the purposes of bringing us to together to discuss how to:
1) Form broader and wider solidarities with all democratic and progressive forces
2) Build a wider and deeper resistance to increasing state repression
3) Strategize together on legal and constitutional frameworks to defend the rights that we do still, have.

To organize ourselves more effectively to fight this lethal combined power of constitutional and legislative changes along with state violence and state-sponsored violence, this Convention will bring us together in resistance, in our fight for democratic rights; for the rights of peoples and for the right to dissent.

Please Join
National Convention in Defence of Democratic Rights
31st August- 1st September 2019
Rajendra Bhawan, ITO, New Delhi

On behalf of the Coordination team,
AIPWA - Kavita Krishnan
Aman Biradiri - Harsh Mander
Delhi Solidarity Group - Priya Pillai & Anil Tharayath

HRLN - Gunjan Singh
IFTU – Animesh Das
JADS – Madhuri
NAPM - Vimal & Madhuresh
Navsharan Singh
NCHRO - Ansaar Indori
NFIW - Rushda & Koninika
NTUI - Gautam Mody
PIPFPD - Vijayan MJ
PUCL - Kavita Srivastava & N D Pancholi
Quill Foundation - Vipul Kumar & Madhur Bhartiya
SNS - Anjali Bharadwaj
Sumit Chakravorty
United Against Hate - Nadeem Khan

Draft Programme

Session I – Inaugural Session
Attack on democratic rights
Setting the context of the Convention on the backdrop of arrests under UAPA
Bhima Koregaon violence
Use of draconian laws to stifle the voice of resistance
Abrogation of Article 370 and constitutional overreach
Keynote address


(1) Kashmir Crisis
(2) Draconian Laws
(3) Citizenship and
(4) Adivasi, Dalit &
(5) Minority Rights

Session II - Draconian Laws and repression on dissenting voices

Misuse of draconian laws and Indian Penal Code to criminalise dissent

Session III – Redefining Citizenship to create the ‘Other’

The ‘othering’ of people as second-class citizens
(1) Article 370,
(2) NRC,
(3) Citizenship Act

Session IV – Militarisation and Securitization

Use of armed forces to aid the exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of corporations.
Use of sedition laws and ‘security threat’ to militarise the state

Session – V Targeting Dalit, Adivasi, and Minority Rights

The complicity of the state in promoting attacks on Adivasis, Dalits and minorities by Hindutva militia
A targeted attack on constitutional rights
1) Adivasi rights
2) Dalit rights
3) Minority Rights

Session VI – Concluding Session

The way forward

* This info was sent to by Shantanu Mishra [] who can be contacted at shantanu(AT)delhiforum(DOT)net
This Post is webcasted on August 26 2019

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