Opposition lashes out, calls it 'undeclared emergency'
Amid the relentless protests against the proposed shifting of the capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam, the Andhra Pradesh government has invoked the National Security Act, 1980 across the state. The Act, which is seen as a draconian measure to curb individual liberties to express dissent, has come into force in the state from 16 January 2020.
As per the GO (GO RT No 88) issued on 14 January 2020, the Act will be in force for three months. In fact, the Act, under which the government delegates the powers to arrest and detain an individual to the Collectors and police commissioners was invoked first for three months from 15 October 2019.
As it expired on January 14, the government now felt the need to extend the provisions further for three months following the reports from Police commissioners of Vijayawada, the epicentre of the "Save Amaravati" protests and Visakhapatnam, the proposed executive capital of the state.
The government also cited the reports of Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) as the ground for invoking the provisions of NSA. The GO is issued with the signature of Nilam Sawhney, chief secretary of the government of Andhra Pradesh.
The GO stated that “the circumstances and conditions prevailing and likely to prevail within the local limits of the jurisdiction of the Collectors and District Magistrates, and the Commissioner of Police in the state” have forced the state to extend the invocation of NSA provisions beyond 15 January 2020.
The Act authorises the District Magistrate or Police Commissioner to detain any person for a period of 12 months. Section 8 (2) says the official need not disclose the fact that led to the detention of the individual. “Nothing in sub-section (1) shall require the authority to disclose facts which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose.”
K Narayana, National Council Member of CPI, dubbed this as an 'undeclared emergency'. Taking objection to invoking provisions of NSA, the Communist veteran said there have been no circumstances in Andhra Pradesh that warrant invocation of emergency provisions.
"It shows clearly that Chief Minister Jagan is worried about the 'Save Amaravati' movement. He is consciously creating an alibi to unleash repression. The Amaravati protests against his three capitals are spreading across the state peacefully. He is not able even to reach the secretariat without his route being brought under police control. He is always surrounded by hundreds of police. He has imposed Section 144 in all villages in the Amaravati region. He has deployed forces at the rate of a thousand police personnel in every village. To prevent the interactions among the villages, the government has dug up trenches reminiscent of the Indo-Pak border situation. Now he wants to crush this peaceful movement with NSA. Jagan should not forget what fate befell Indira Gandhi who imposed Emergency,” Narayana told The Lede.
Many view the invocation of NSA 1980 as a measure to crush the resistance to the shifting of capital in the next few weeks. The apprehension among the political circles is that the chief minister, who is hell bent on shifting the capital to Visakhapatnam is all set to repeal the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act 2014.
This paves the path for the YSR Congress government to shift the capital to Vizag without any immediate legal hurdle. The CRDA Act repeal bill is expected to be tabled in the house in the next Assembly session, scheduled to commence from January 20.
The bill envisages, according to sources, the abrogation of CRDA along with the revival of VGTM UDA which would act as a successor to CRDA to take care of all liabilities and transactions made under CRDA Act.
As per the whispers in the corridors of power, the government is also expected to announce the timeline for the shifting of the capital transfer.
These two decisions have the potential to trigger unrest as the situation in Amaravati region has already been surcharged and may even delay the process of shifting of capital.
Even though the opposition to the three capital statement made by chief minister Jagan was subdued earlier, opposition leader and TDP (Telugu Desam Party) supremo Chandrababu Naidu is able to make the issue a rallying point for the 'Save Amaravati' forces, and stir unrest in other districts as well. Except for the CPM, all political parties in the state are up in arms against Jagan on the capital issue. The CPM is non-committal on the subject.
Naidu toured Anantapur district, which is said to be the fortress for the TDP, to mobilise people for the ‘One-State-One-Capital’ campaign. TDP sources said he will tour the remaining districts soon.
Kalva Srinivasulu former minister and TDP politburo member from Anantapur said NSA is being invoked to detain all the top leaders of TDP to prevent the ‘Save Amaravati’ protests from snowballing into a state-wide movement.
“Where is the need for NSA? Is there any anti-national movement in Andhra? Jagan is worried that people are seeing through his capital shifting as a real estate venture. No region is happy with three capitals. The message is sinking in. So he is thinking that he could contain the movement with a repressive tool like NSA,” Kalva told The Lede from Anantapur.