Chhattisgarh anti-terror law to go if Congress returns: Ajit Jogi (Interview)

July 1st, 2008 - 12:14 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party
By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur, July 1 (IANS) Chhattisgarh’s controversial anti-terror law will be repealed if the Congress is voted to power in the November assembly elections, former chief minister Ajit Jogi says. “Repeal of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) will be the top priority of the Congress government (if it is formed after the polls),” Jogi told IANS in an interview here.

Mineral-rich Chhattisgarh’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government enacted the CSPSA, which has been likened to the defunct Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) that was repealed by the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh soon after it assumed office in 2004.

“There is no need for CSPSA as existing laws are more than enough to deal with any given situation,” said the Congress leader, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a horrific car crash in April 2004.

This is the first time any Congress heavyweight in Chhattisgarh has commented on the fate of the CSPSA, which human right groups describe as a “black law”.

Over 40 people have been arrested under the act since it came into force in 2005 and have been charged with Maoist links. The most prominent among those held is physician Binayak Sen, vice president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

Sen was held May 14, 2007, in Bilaspur town and is now facing treason and other charges in a court here after the Chhattisgarh High Court and the Supreme Court rejected his bail plea.

Sen has been lodged at the Raipur Central Jail here since his arrest.

“Sen is a renowned physician, he has devoted his life to serving downtrodden communities in the (state’s) interiors,” Jogi, a bureaucrat-turned-politician, maintained.

“Sen is very poplar in the state. His arrest is a glaring example of the misuse of the CSPSA. It is surprising that he has been described as anti-national,” Jogi added.

“Not only will a Congress government scrap but will also plead in favour of Sen in court,” he said.

Speaking about the Congress’ prospects in the assembly polls, Jogi said: “I daily meet 400-500 people from a cross-section of society. It seems to me that the people have made up their minds to throw out the BJP government.

“There is a general impression among the people that the BJP government has taken corruption levels to a new high,” Jogi added.

Asked who the chief minister would be if the Congress won the polls, Jogi replied: “Right now, we are not looking at this issue.

“There is internal democracy in the Congress. The choice of the elected legislators and the party high command’s blessings will decide the issue,” he added.

A member of the Congress Working Committee, Jogi became Chhattisgarh’s first chief minister when it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh Nov 1, 2000. The Congress, however, suffered a stunning defeat in the state’s maiden assembly polls in Nov 2003.

Jogi maintained there would be no political witch hunt if the Congress returned to power.

“The new Congress government will not launch a witch hunt or any kind of political vendetta against the (present) chief minister and the ministers but will surely examine whether any laws have been violated,” Jogi contended.

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