What will amnesty international concern over anti-terrorism laws bring to India? 

Amnesty International is very concerned about the Indian government’s use of anti-terrorism legislation to unfairly target members of civil society, especially those from marginalized communities and those seen as possible threats to the regime of truth. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary will evaluate India’s adherence to global norms, and the group has issued a strong warning before the meeting. In a statement, Amnesty International emphasized the need for the Indian government to follow FATF laws without abusing its standards. The organization highlighted instances in its case studies where the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) silenced critical voices.

The statistics show that from 2019 to 2022, the UAPA jailed over a thousand people, many of whom are still in prison awaiting trial. The group is concerned that human rights abuses, a decline in the rule of law, and the eventual demise of democracy might result from India’s misuse of its anti-terrorism legislation.

Using the UAPA, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has achieved its goal of silencing opponents and human rights defenders, which is in their self-interest. Over the last decade, the BJP has cracked down on dissent and punished anyone who dared to oppose it using the harsh provisions of the UAPA. The assumption of guilt, strict bail conditions, and lengthy jail terms without accusations are all parts of this system. The government’s goal in passing these rules is to undermine civic society by stifling criticism. Anti-terrorism laws have led to the erosion of procedural protections. This means the BJP may use the courts to punish anyone who dares to question their power.

The 2010 trial of Kashmiri scholar Sheikh Showkat Hussain and author Arundhati Roy, who delivered a speech and faced indictment under the UAPA, exemplifies the Indian government’s crackdown on dissent. A 72 percent increase from the previous three years means that more than 5,000 individuals will face charges under UAPA from 2019 to 2022. This activity is part of a more significant trend. Long prison sentences are a direct outcome of the legislation’s draconian provisions; thus, 70% of UAPA offenders remain incarcerated without ever having their cases heard in court. 

The fact that 72.4% of UAPA trials have resulted in acquittals demonstrates the government’s blatant misuse of the Act to silence opponents. This trend of random targeting discourages speech and contributes to a climate of fear and repression.

The upcoming FATF evaluation would be a crucial test of India’s compliance with global standards on counter-terrorism funding. Last year, Amnesty International and Front Line Defenders published research that highlighted the troubling trend of Indian authorities abusing counter-terrorism laws to target civil society. The analysis revealed that the UAPA imprisoned over a thousand individuals between 2019 and 2022. The FATF review will examine India’s measures to prevent the misuse of its anti-terrorism laws, ensuring the upholding of people’s due process and procedural right.

 India must maintain a high FATF rating to avoid economic sanctions and maintain its worldwide reputation. A negative assessment could potentially activate the gray list, exposing India to economic penalties and further scrutiny. The FATF examination could affect India’s ability to attract foreign investment; a negative outcome could deter investors. Protecting civil society from the misuse of its counter-terrorism laws and ensuring the integrity of individuals’ due process and procedural rights are two ways India might demonstrate its seriousness about following FATF standards.

There needs to be proper legislation to combat terrorism, which is a grave issue. However, we must closely monitor the BJP’s attempt to censor its critics as a prime example of manipulating anti-terrorism laws for political advantage. A democratic society like India must uphold democratic principles and standards while safeguarding civil liberties and the press. We must ensure the preservation of Indian society’s pluralistic nature by preventing political manipulation of laws and promoting civil discourse and respectful disagreement.

Abdul Mussawer Safi
Abdul Mussawer Safi

is associated with think tanks like the Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad (IPS). He is pursuing his master’s in international relations at the National Defense University Islamabad. His expertise lies in the regional dynamics of South Asia.

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