Gets more worrying in the context of JNU-Jamia protest.
The Delhi Police (DP) getting powers under the National Security Act (NSA) may be a routine matter—DP has clarified that the NSA provision has been there in the law and is just re-notified every quarter—but that doesn’t make it any less of a concern. Indeed, that a routine notification should have caused the kind of furore it has points to how poor the optics of the move are. The NSA’s provisions are draconian since they allow detention of people without filing of charges for up to 12 months (extendable if the government finds fresh evidence), and suspension of a host of rights under the Criminal Procedure Code—including the right to legal counsel—that apply to people arrested under other laws and legal provisions. NSA was originally meant to deal with threats to national security since, very often, it is difficult to get enough proof against terrorists in a relatively short period of time, to ensure they don’t get out on bail. This provision, however, is a double-edged sword; while such powers need to be available to combat terrorism, they can also be made an instrument of state oppression. The recent instances of Manipuri journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem being jailed under NSA for over four months for being critical of the chief minister of the state, and of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azad Ravan being jailed for nearly 15 months show how such powers can be misused by the state.
Against the backdrop of the anti-CAA protests in the national capital, among other places in the country, and the aggressive statements from members of the ruling party on the need to clamp down on the protests which, they claim, are anti-national, the NSA powers will exacerbate the anxieties of those who believe the CAA—along with the talk on NPR/NRC—is discriminatory towards Muslims. Delhi’s winter of protests has also seen violence against students in Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University, in which the role of the police has stoked controversy. Although there have been instances of unrest, the anti-CAA protests in the national capital have largely been peaceful, and there seems little threat of them degenerating into situations that will threaten the security of the country. And, student protests, loud and disruptive though they may be, are little threat to national security. Indeed, for a functioning democracy, dissent must be allowed. With the Delhi Police under the Union home ministry, the Centre must offer reassurance, volubly and visibly, that the NSA provisions won’t be used to crush democratic dissent.