Thursday 08 Dec 2022

Police crackdown in Goa infringement on basic civil liberties


The government banned the Popular Front of India and several of its associate groups for five years under the anti-terror law accusing them of having links with global terror groups like ISIS. The government notification states that PFI and its associates operate openly as a socio-economic, educational and political organisation but have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society, working towards undermining the concept of democracy and showing sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and set up of the country. The PFI has been charged with indulging in unlawful activities that are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and have the potential to disturb public peace and communal harmony of the country and support militancy in the country.

As per the notification, States are empowered to crack down on the outfit and its associates "if they carry out any organisational activities since it has ceased to exist after the ban." Along with a few other States, Goa has promptly reacted by unleashing police action against suspects and causing havoc to the lives of even ordinary citizens. Twenty-nine members allegedly linked to the PFI were taken into preventive detention. They were made to go through a horrendous time at their respective police stations.

Around 14 people were rounded off by Margao police, six by Maina Curtorim police and one from Cuncolim police station. These preventive detentions were uncalled for since there has been no activity of the PFI carried out in Goa at this time. These accused were not produced before the magistrate to execute bonds but were made to spend hours at the police stations. The farce enacted in the name of the ban lay exposed.

The worst part is that even ordinary citizens and social activists who were not linked to the PFI were rounded off and subjected to intense questioning. A columnist of The Goan who argued against the Centre's approach against the PFI in one of his articles was summoned to the police station. This writer, a political commentator and a senior human rights activist, was questioned about his writings and source of information. The police even searched his cell phone for data and photographs.

The question is, why have the police gone about with such ferocity in a peaceful state like Goa? What are we telling the outside world and to other States? That Goa, too, is a home for terror-linked groups? Or is the State government only trying to score brownie points by following the master's voice?

Unfortunately, psychological terror is being unleashed in the name of PFI when those indulging in gruesome crimes, thefts, rapes, and blatantly selling drugs inflicting a slow death on Goans are allowed a free run. Why can't the police force show such ruthlessness on anti-social elements and criminals roaming freely and throwing a web of insecurity among honourable citizens?

We are not arguing against the ban on any outfit or a group which the government feels suspicious about. The police action in Goa is deplorable because it completely violates civil liberties and goes against the fundamentals of basic living.

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