- Many opposition leaders said law could be misused to target individuals
- Amit Shah accused the Congress of double standards on the Bill
- Congress leader Shashi Tharoor described the bill as hastily brought
The government can designate individuals suspected to have terror links as "terrorists" if controversial changes to a counter-terrorism law are cleared in parliament. Amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Bill were passed in the Lok Sabha today with 287 votes in its favour and eight against it after the opposition walked out in protest, calling it draconian.
Defending the changes, Home Minister Amit Shah said: "Terrorism is in people's tendency, not in organisations. There's a need for a provision to declare an individual as a terrorist. The UN has a procedure for it, the US has it, even Pakistan has it, China, Israel, European Union... Everyone has done it."
Amit Shah pointed out that if a terror organisation was banned, a terrorist could easily set up another.
Several opposition leaders, including the Trinamool Congress's Mahua Moitra, objected to the changes saying the law could be misused to target individuals. Demanding the withdrawal of the Bill, Ms Moitra argued that it will have an impact on the federal structure of the country if passed by parliament.
"If the centre wants to target someone, they will get them somehow with the help of some law. Opposition leaders, minorities, right activists and others, if they disagree with the homogenous idea of India that this government is trying to thrust upon us, the opposition runs the risk of being labelled as anti-national," Mahua Moitra said.
"Why is the opposition called anti-national every time we disagree with the government on issues of national security, policing?" she added.
Replying to the allegations, Mr Shah said no one would harass genuine social activists and "the burden of proof" will remain on the investigating agency. "There are in fact many social activists who are doing good work... But we will smash the urban Maoists," said the Home Minister.
He accused the Congress of double standards on the UAPA.
"When you (opposition) question us you don't see who brought the law and amendments, who made it stringent. It was brought when you were in power, what you did then was right and what I'm doing now is also right," the Home Minister said.
"A government fights terrorism; it shouldn't matter which party is in power," Amit Shah added.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor described the amendment bill as "hastily brought". When the changes were first tabled over a week ago by the Home Minister, Mr Tharoor had said even veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee had opposed such a provision.
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