Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Maoists banned, Marxists whine

23 Jun 2009, 0303 hrs IST, ET Bureau




NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday formally listed CPI (Maoist) as a separate terrorist outfit under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Though
the decision will make little difference on the ground as the ban on CPI (Maoist) was already in effect by virtue of its constituents — CPI(ML), People’s War Group and MCC, along with all their formations and front organisations — featuring in the list of terrorist outfits under the UAPA, it is aimed at clearing any ambiguity regarding the illegal status of CPI (Maoist).

“It (CPI-Maoist) was always a terror organisation and today an ambiguity has been removed that it is a terror organisation,” Union home minister P Chidambaram said soon after the Centre notified the ban, exercising its powers under Section 35(1)(a) of the UAPA. The CPI (Maoist) is the 35th organisation to be listed as terrorist outfit under UAPA.

The CPI (Maoist) was formed by the merger of CPI(ML)-People’s War Group and MCC in September 2004. The question of a separate ban on CPI (Maoist) had come up soon after the merger, but the law ministry then took the view that there was no need for such ban as the UAPA clearly listed the formations and front organisations of CPI (ML)-People’s War Group and MCC as terrorist outfits, thus also including in its ambit CPI (Maoist). Besides, there were some differences within the constituent Naxal outfits regarding the acceptability of the merger — the Maoists in Nepal had at the time refused to recognise the merger — leading the Centre to settle for status quo.

The question of a separate ban on CPI (Maoist) cropped up again a couple of days ago when Union home minister P Chidambaram took a closer look at status of Naxalite outfits under UAPA. The minister is said to have insisted on a fresh ban on the merged outfits, CPI (Maoist), under which the Left-wing extremists were now operating in most states.

Stating that there had been some opposition initially to the merger of CPI(ML)-People’s War Group and MCC under the banner of CPI (Maoist), Mr Chidambaram said the situation had since crystallised and the merger accepted broadly. “By virtue of Section 41 of UAPA, the merged organisation...would also be a terrorist organisation...nevertheless, in order to avoid any ambiguity, the Central government has...added CPI (Maoist) by name to the Schedule to the Act,” he explained.

While his party colleague Sitaram Yechury met Mr Chidambaram after the ban order was issued, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat doubted its efficacy saying a banned organisation could function under a different name.

West Bengal chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborty said in Kolkata that the government would go into the legal implications of ban and present a report to the chief minister. The Left stand comes two days after chief minister stated that his government will give a serious thought to proscribing the Naxals. “We have decided that such outfits, which follow misguided politics, cannot be countered by banning them. It is important to counter the activities of these outfits politically,” Left Front chairman Biman Bose said.

Commenting on the rejection of the ban by the Left Front, with leaders like Prakash Karat and Biman Bose insisting on tackling the Maoists “politically and ideologically,” the Union home minister pointed out that the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was in fact in favour of the ban. “The Left Front is not the West Bengal government...I hope this distinction between the party and the government will be maintained and the state Cabinet will take an appropriate decision (on the ban),” Mr Chidambaram told reporters.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908, empowers the state government to declare an association as “unlawful.” Accordingly, while Orissa, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu have declared CPI (Maoist) as an unlawful association, Bihar has listed MCC and CPI(ML)-PW as unlawful. Andhra Pradesh, MP and Chattisgarh have enacted their own separate state legislations declaring the CPI (Maoist) as an unlawful outfit.

Under UAPA, last amended in December 2008, the Centre is also empowered to declare an association as unlawful. The Act also defines a terrorist organisation in Section 2(1)(m), which are then specifically listed in the Schedule to the Act.

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