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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 00:31 GMT
India anti-terror bill progresses
Indian policemen pass car-bomb wreck after an attack on the legislative assembly in Srinagar
High-profile attacks in Indian cities raised concerns
The lower house of the Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha, has passed the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (Poto).

Indian policeman runs for cover during the attack on Indian parliament
The attacks led to troop deployments on the border
Announced after the 11 September attacks in the United States, the ordinance allows security forces much greater power of arrest, interrogation and detention.

Poto defines as a "terrorist" anyone threatening India's unity as well as causing "terror among people".

However, to become a law, the ordinance now has to be approved by the upper house of parliament (Rajya Sabha).

'Draconian'

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition which rules India does not have a majority in Rajya Sabha.


When we ask our security forces to crush terrorism, how can we not empower them?

LK Advani
Home Minister

The bill, described as draconian by the opposition, was defeated when it was first placed before the Loksabha in December.

It was re-issued after an attack on the Indian parliament building by gunmen on 13 December.

An attack on the American Centre in Calcutta in January, and another on the state assembly in Srinagar last October appeared to have increased support for the bill.

The proposed law allows security forces to detain suspects for up to 30 days without having to bring them to a court.

Despite protests from the opposition and human rights campaigners over the past few months, the bill was approved in the lower house on Tuesday by a 261-137 majority.

Reassurances

Cleaner washes bloodstains after the attack on American Centre in Calcutta
Human rights activists fear a loss of liberty

Home Minister LK Advani says the government is aware of the concerns of the bill's critics.

"We have incorporated several safeguards that have been suggested by the Supreme Court and by lawmakers," he said.

Opponents of the bill say it could be used by the government to harass the innocent and target minority Muslims.

A BJP official said on Monday if the bill was defeated in Rajya Sabha, the government would convene a joint session of the two houses to get the bill passed.

See also:

09 Mar 02 | South Asia
India rebuffs Pakistan talks offer
29 Jan 02 | South Asia
India snubs Pakistan over talks
15 Jan 02 | South Asia
India 'still waiting' for action
14 Jan 02 | South Asia
India unmoved by Pakistan crackdown
08 Jan 02 | South Asia
India demands proof of Pakistan resolve
20 Mar 02 | South Asia
India welcomes Pakistan's arrests
31 Dec 01 | South Asia
India hands Pakistan 'wanted' list
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