1. The existing NIA and UAPA laws are draconian and have been rampantly misused to target human rights activists and innocent citizens. Activists working to protect the rights of India’s most vulnerable communities, and dissenting voices against the Government, have been arrested under these laws. The amendments to these laws, passed by the Lok Sabha, will further empower the Government to criminalise dissent and target individuals who criticise it. These amendments allow the Government to designate individuals as “terrorists” and suspend their civil liberties including their banks accounts, and place the onus of proof on the accused. This Convention demands that the proposed amendments to NIA and UAPA laws be withdrawn, that the draconian UAPA be scrapped, the NIA be made accountable to Parliament, and all the activists arrested under UAPA be released.
2. This Convention demands the withdrawal of the amendments to the RTI Act that have been passed by the Lok Sabha. These amendments will render the Central Information Commission a puppet of the Government in power. They will completely blunt the edge of the RTI, which is a vital tool of democracy, used by 60,000 people every year. We are determined to fight to safeguard and strengthen RTI.
3. All over the country, adivasi and forest-dwelling people are being violently evicted from their lands, to benefit mining and other corporations as well as land mafia. The Sonbhadra massacre is the latest instance of this, where 10 adivasis were shot dead by land mafia with the collusion of the UP Government. The Government’s proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act 1927 would allow vast areas of forest land to be grabbed from adivasis and forest-dwellers and handed over to private profiteers. The amendments would also give forest officials the power to shoot people without any liability and find persons guilty of crimes based on material found with them. This Convention demands that the proposed amendments to the IFA 1927 be withdrawn. It also demands that the Indian Forests Act 1927 be scrapped, and replaced with a new law which is in line with the Forest Rights Act and respects the rights of adivasi and forest dwelling communities to forests.
4. This Convention expresses concern over the manner in which the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being used as a tool of exclusion and discrimination in Assam. Several lakhs of Indians are in danger of becoming stateless persons when the final list of the NRC is published in Assam. We demand that lakhs of poor and vulnerable people, unable to furnish legacy data because of bureaucratic hurdles or the lack of documentation should not be treated as illegal immigrants. No person must be treated as a Bangladeshi citizen unless and until Bangladesh recognises them as such, and an effective India-Bangladesh repatriation treaty is in place. We also demand an immediate end to all detention camps, where persons labelled ‘Doubtful Voters’ by the Foreigner Tribunals are being held in inhumane conditions. This Convention demands the withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which aims to communalise Indian citizenship. This Convention calls upon India’s people to reject the BJP’s plans to extend NRC to the rest of India, and to oppose the dehumanising and communal politics of the BJP around NRC and CAB.
5. The chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is being turned into a weapon to intimidate, terrorise, and even lynch Muslims. BJP MPs and MLAs are demanding that Muslim MPs and MLAs chant this slogan to prove their loyalty to India. Taking their cue from these leaders, lynch mobs are using the chant as a pretext to kill Muslims. Perpetrators of communal mob violence at Muzaffarnagar in 2013 are going scot-free, as are perpetrators of lynchings, while the victims and survivors of such attacks are facing FIRs. This Convention demands that the Modi Government be made to answer for its failure to uphold the measures to prevent and punish lynchings, as mandated by the Supreme Court. This Convention expresses solidarity with India’s minorities against persecution and lynchings.
6. This Government has introduced the Labour Code Bill to slash away hard-won labour laws, including laws mandating minimum wages and curbing contractualisation. It is rapidly privatising Indian railways, and PSUs - thus handing over public, profit-making assets to the corporate sector. This will result in massive slashing of jobs and erosion of workers’ rights. In railways, it will result in steep hike in the prices of rail tickets and other basic services. It will also compromise passenger safety. This Convention demands the rollback of the Labour Code Bill and the moves to privatise railways and PSUs.
7. Many areas in the country are reeling under severe drought. While monsoons may blunt the edge of the drought, the fact is that the country is facing a chronic water crisis. At the same time, other areas are facing devastating floods, causing massive loss of life and property. The Government has failed to make plans to prevent loss of life in such floods, or to find long-term solutions to prevent this scale of flooding. This Convention demands urgent short- and long-term measures to protect people from chronic drought and from seasonal floods. This Convention demands an urgent moratorium on big dams being built in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, which is contributing to the flood crisis.
8. This Convention demands a Special Session of Parliament be convened on the agrarian crisis and farmers’ issues, to discuss and pass the two Bills proposed by the Kisan Sansad held by Kisan Mukti March on 30 November 2018 in Delhi: the “Farmers' (Right to Assured Price for Agricultural Produce) Bill, 2017” to guarantee remunerative price of 50% above cost of production to all crops; and “The Farmers' Freedom from Debt Bill 2017” to waive all institutional and non-institutional outstanding crop loans of farmers. This Convention demands withdrawal of the anti-farmer notification of the Central Government banning cattle trade in the cattle market. We demand scrapping of “cow protection” laws which are leading to devastation of dairy farmers as well as agriculturalists and are being used as pretexts to persecute and kill Muslim minorities.
9. The BJP regimes at Centre and State are leading an assault on women’s safety and autonomy. BJP has organised support for its rape-accused leaders and various ‘godmen’. Complainants and witnesses in such cases have been killed or died in mysterious circumstances. Sangh outfits have organised hatred and violence against women’s autonomy, in particular against inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. This Convention calls for solidarity with the Unnao rape survivor who is today battling for life after an “accident” that is suspected to be a murderous assault. We demand stern action against every act of violence against women’s autonomy. This Convention demands withdrawal of the Instant Triple Talaq bill which selectively criminalises desertion of a wife by a Muslim husband but not by a husband of any other faith.
10. The country has witnessed many public health crises - including starvation deaths, chronic malnutrition, epidemics of baby deaths in hospitals, as well as epidemics like the recent encephalopathy epidemic in Bihar. The Ayushman Bharat scheme of the Modi Government seeks to siphon off public funds to private health insurance companies. Instead of this Ayushman farce, this Convention demands Government investment in a comprehensive public health network, so that every person in India can have access to free healthcare of the best quality, and epidemics can be prevented.
11. The Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) introduced by the Modi government aims at a massive paradigm shift to dismantle the state funded school system and publicly funded colleges. It promotes privatisation of school and higher education, which results in steep fees. It departs from every previous NEP by deleting any reference to “secularism” or to reservations for oppressed castes. It seeks to promote and impose Hindi and Sanskrit at the cost of other Indian languages. This Convention demands withdrawal of the DNEP, and the preparation of a fresh draft in consultation with teachers and students all over India.
12. The Aadhaar system has proven to be a tool of exclusion from welfare schemes. People from poor and oppressed communities, especially children and the elderly, have starved to death as a consequence of Aadhaar linkage to ration, pension and other welfare schemes. Now the Government proposes to link Aadhaar to voter-IDs, which will make Aadhaar a tool of massive disenfranchisement of the poor. The Economic Survey of the last union Budget has also proposed to integrate various databases and sell sensitive personal data (including health and education) to private corporate players. Further, the infrastructure created in the name of Aadhaar is also being used to isolate and surveil lakhs of Indians who are about to be declared stateless citizens under the NRC. This Convention demands the scrapping of Aadhaar, and the entire Aadhaar database, since it is being used for the gross violation of human rights including the right to food, right to vote, and right to privacy.
13. Multiple questions have arisen about the credibility of EVMs. The EC’s lack of transparency, its false claim that chips used in EVMs are ‘OTP’, and its unwillingness to explain major mismatch in its own data of votes polled and votes counted have added to the doubts. EVMs go against the right of the voters to verify the accuracy of their own votes with their own eyes. In the interests of empowering the Indian voter and ensuring transparency and credibility of India’s electoral democracy, this Convention demands that Indian elections go “Back to Ballot.”
14. Even as the BJP is blatantly using corrupt means to buy MLAs and topple Opposition state governments, the Modi Government is proposing 'One Nation, One Election’ (ONOE). This proposal is aimed at moving India from a Parliamentary to a Presidential mode, and is dangerous for federalism and democracy. The Electoral Bonds system introduced by the Modi Government also promotes political corruption and cronyism. This Convention rejects the ONOE proposal and demands withdrawal of the Electoral Bonds scheme. This Convention demands fresh elections in Karnataka where the BJP has just used corrupt means to win a “trust vote.”
15. Buoyed by the return of the Modi government at the Centre and the stunning advance of the BJP in West Bengal, the Sangh brigade has unleashed a massive campaign of terror and vandalism to grab power in the state. With the TMC government getting increasingly discredited for the growing anarchy, corruption and lawlessness of the TMC cadre, including many of the ruling party's elected representatives, and the terror unleashed on the opposition during the 2018 panchayat elections, the BJP has found a favourable political opportunity in West Bengal. The Sangh brigade is desperate to grab it by triggering large-scale defection along with an orchestrated campaign of communal violence and political terror and vandalism. The BJP campaign is aimed not just at grabbing political power but overturning the inclusive and progressive social and cultural legacy of West Bengal and turning West Bengal into a veritable laboratory for its politics of communal polarisation. This Convention calls on the Left and progressive forces and the democracy-loving people of West Bengal to resist this assault on the state's social harmony, cultural diversity, and peace and pledges solidarity in this battle for saving West Bengal from the clutches of communal fascists.
16. This Convention calls upon the people of India to forge a rock-solid unity to resist the fascist onslaught. An attack on one is an attack on all. We call for determined, principled solidarity with every one of us who is under attack. We call for a united defence of our collective rights, and our beloved country’s democracy and diversity. We defy the attempts to terrorise and silence us with abuse, arrests or assassinations! We will not allow secular, democratic India to be turned into a Hindu Rashtra. This Convention calls for a ‘Save Democracy’ mass contact campaign throughout August, the month of India’s Independence, dedicated to mobilising protest against the whole range of attacks on the Constitution, on electoral democracy, on people’s rights, and on secularism.
Unite and Resist! We Shall Overcome!