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UAPA: INDIA DESIGNATES KHALISTANI GROUP LINKS AS TERRORISTS

Focus: GS-II Governance, GS-I History, Prelims  

Why in news?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) designated nine more individuals linked to separatist Khalistani groups as “terrorists” under the amended UAPA Act.
  • The UAPA as amended in 2019 gave the MHA the power to designate individuals as terrorists.

What is Khalistan movement?

  • The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist move
  • ment seeking to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state, called Khalistān in the Punjab Region.
  • The proposed state would consist of land that currently forms Punjab, India and Punjab, Pakistan along with other areas of both countries, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh in Pakistan; and Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan in India.

History

  • The declaration of the Khālsā by Gurū Gobind Singh in 1699 and the religio-political vision that came with it fired the Sikh imagination with the belief that it was their God-given right to rule the Punjab.
  • In 1710, under the leadership of Bandā Singh Bahādur Sikh forces captured Sirhind, the most powerful Mughal administrative center between Delhi and Lahore.
  • After the subsequent rapid decline of the Khālsā Rāj and its final loss to the British (1849), many Sikhs still hope that the Khālsā Raj would yet return in some form.
  • In the protracted negotiations that preceded the partition of the Punjab in 1947 the idea of an independent Sikh state figured prominently.
  • The Sikh population’s lack of numerical strength in relation to other residents of the Punjab made this an unviable proposition, but it has resurfaced in various forms since.
  • In the 1970s and ’80s a violent secessionist movement to create Khalistan paralyzed the Punjab for a decade.

Attached violence

  • The movement reached its zenith in the late 1970s and 1980s when the secessionist movement caused large-scale violence among the local population, including the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi and the bombing of Air India Flight 182 which killed 329 passengers.
  • There is some support within India and the Sikh diaspora, with yearly demonstrations in protest of those killed during Operation Blue Star.

Operation Blue Star

  • Operation Blue Star was the codename of an Indian military action carried out between 1 and 8 June 1984 to remove militant Sikh leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Punjab.
  • The decision to launch the attack rested with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • The military action in the temple complex was criticized by Sikhs worldwide, who interpreted it as an assault on the Sikh religion.
  • Many Sikh soldiers in the army deserted their units, several Sikhs resigned from civil administrative office and returned awards received from the Indian government.
  • Five months after the operation, on 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards.

Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill, 2019

The original Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, dealt with “unlawful” acts related to secession; anti-terror provisions were introduced in 2004.

It provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.

Key Provisions of the Amendment

The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.

Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:

  1. commits or participates in acts of terrorism
  2. prepares for terrorism
  3. promotes terrorism
  4. is otherwise involved in terrorism

The word “terror” or “terrorist” is not defined.

However, a “terrorist act” is defined as any act committed with the intent –

  1. to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India
  2. to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country

The central government may designate an individual as a terrorist through a notification in the official gazette.

  • The Bill empowers the officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  • Under the Act, an investigating officer can seize properties that may be connected with terrorism with prior approval of the Director General of Police.

Some Concerning Points about designation of someone as terrorist

  • The government is NOT required to give an individual an opportunity to be heard before such a designation.
  • At present, legally, a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
  • In this line, an individual who is convicted in a terror case is legally referred to as a ‘terrorist’.
  • And those suspected of being involved in terrorist activities are referred to as ‘terror accused’.
  • The Bill does NOT clarify the standard of proof required to establish that an individual is involved or is likely to be involved in terrorist activities.
  • The Bill also does not require the filing of cases or arresting individuals while designating them as terrorists.

How can the names be removed?

  • Application – The Bill seeks to give the central government the power to remove a name from the schedule when an individual makes an application.
  • The procedure for such an application and the process of decision-making will also be decided by the central government.
  • If an application filed is rejected by the government, the Bill gives the person the right to seek a review within one month of rejection.
  • Review committee – Under the amendment Bill, the central government will set up a review committee.
  • It will consist of a chairperson (a retired or sitting judge of a High Court) and 3 other members.
  • It will be empowered to order the government to delete the name of an individual from the schedule that lists “terrorists”, if it considers the order to be flawed.
  • Apart from these two avenues, the individual can also move the courts challenging the government’s order.

-Source: The Hindu

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