The number of India’s “internal enemies” seems to have grown exponentially in the last three years. Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that between 2017 and 2019, the number of Indians prone to commit “crimes against the State” has grown by 49 per cent, from 9,013 in 2017 to 13,376 in 2019.
Also the NCRB registered an increase of a staggering 83 per cent in the number of Indians charged under Section 124-A of the IPC amounting to “sedition”. The second surge of 36 per cent is in the number of cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a descendent of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
The ancestry of UAPA is critical to understand the nature and scope of such laws in undermining individual liberties on one hand and their simultaneous inefficacy in combating terrorism on the other. TADA had to be repealed because the conviction rate achieved in this statute was a mere 1.11 per cent over nine years. The investigating agencies could not prove that people were guilty of terrorism despite confessions to the police being admissible in court, detention up to one year without formal charges in absolute violation of the procedural code. POTA was repealed because of the 4,349 cases registered, only 13 convictions could be secured by the police.
Crucially of the 1,226 UAPA cases in 2019, in a staggering 583 cases the police could not file chargesheet because of “insufficient evidence, or untraced or no clue”. Chargesheet could be filed only in 228 UAPA cases. Similarly, of the 93 cases amounting to sedition in 2019, in as many as 21 cases, the police found “insufficient evidence, or untraced or no clue” despite the overwhelming scope of 124-A IPC.
Are we to believe that the lesson for young idealists is to refrain from warring against injustices of the world, or joining twitter storms on “Me Too”, “Black Lives Matter” or the global campaign against climate change? Twenty two -year-old Disha Ravi, in her effervescence of youth, was perhaps oblivious to the alacrity with which the Indian State takes offence these days.