Terrorism would have been an extravagance for Yogeshwar Tudu, 30, who could barely feed his wife and two children by collecting firewood. That did not stop the police from arresting him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). His 'crime': attending a meeting of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in a hamlet in Jharkhand.
Says Shashi Bhushan Pathak of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Ranchi, "He went to an MCC meeting but had no idea what it meant." Though ultra-left groups reach out to villagers like Tudu routinely, it landed the young man in jail. Once there, he got cerebral malaria and eventually died of it. Meanwhile, his children—aged seven and five—died of starvation. His devastated wife is still trying to figure out what went wrong.
She and 42 others like her—victims or kin of those who have no connection with terrorism but who have suffered at the hands of POTA—will meet in Delhi this weekend for a public hearing to highlight the misuse of the law and its flaws.
Organised by human rights activists and lawyers from different...