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6900 cases, 4700 arrests: How UAPA is a prime weapon in India’s terror crackdown

A severe clampdown by security agencies in the last few years has led to more cases being filed under the stringent anti-terror law.

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The arrest of an ISIS suicide bomber in Russia who was out to kill a “member of India’s ruling circles” has put the security apparatus here on heightened alert. This comes even as almost a dozen ISIS and al-Qaeda operatives have been apprehended from different parts of India over the last few days. The massive crackdown comes on the heels of the Nupur Sharma episode that sources say led to increased chatter among sleeper cells of various radical organisations.

The arrested operatives have been booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). In fact, a severe clampdown by security agencies in the last few years has led to more cases being filed under the stringent anti-terror law. A total of 6,900 UAPA cases and 399 sedition cases have been registered between 2014 and 2020, the latest year for which data is available.

Between 2018 and 2020, a total of 4,690 persons have been arrested under UAPA, more than 92 percent of whom are in the 18-45 age group. The conviction rate, however, remains low at only a little over 3 per cent. The highest number of arrests were made in Uttar Pradesh (1,338), followed by Manipur (943) and J&K (750). In fact, the six states of UP, Manipur, J&K, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Assam account for nine out of every 10 arrests under UAPA.

The year 2019 saw maximum UAPA (1,226) and sedition (93) cases being registered, and also the highest number of arrests (1,948). UP made 498 arrests under the anti-terror law in 2019, the highest for any state in a single year. The following year also had its fair share of UAPA and sedition cases. 

This was the time when India witnessed a wave of violence, fuelled by protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The protests were particularly violent in Western UP, and culminated in full-blown riots in Northeast Delhi. Scores were arrested, including political leaders and activists who allegedly instigated the violence, made provocative speeches or lent material/financial support. 

Many believe the larges cale riots had a similar pattern and the organised violence could not have been possible without the involvement of radical groups, many of which are suspected to have cross-border connections.

In 2021, the Republic Day violence in Delhi also saw UAPA and sedition cases being slapped. So did the 2018 clashes in Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon that authorities believe was instigated by activists linked to banned Maoist groups. Most terrorism and separatism cases in J&K, Maoist activities in Jharkhand, and militancy-related incidents in Manipur, Assam and other north-eastern states are also booked under UAPA. 

For Manipur, a state that accounts for only 0.2 per cent of India’s population, the number of UAPA cases registered here is abysmally high. This tiny north-eastern state has at least six major militant groups – People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yaol Kanba Lup (KYKL) and Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF). 

Various factions of ULFA and NSCN are active in Assam and Nagaland respectively. Some banned Bangladeshi terror outfits such as Ansarullah Bangla Team and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh also operate out of Assam.

READ | India yet to get formal evidence from Russia on Islamic State suicide bomber's arrest: Report

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