Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor has passed an order authorizing the city’s police, controlled by the Union home ministry, to place the national capital under the National Security Act (NSA). This law allows the police to detain a person without trial for months should it be satisfied that the individual poses a threat to national security. The city, as per the order, has been put under the NSA for three months starting 19 January.

India has had mass protests and sporadic bouts of tumult after it amended its citizenship law in a manner widely seen as discriminatory. Anxieties among members of India’s largest minority group are observed to have spiked in its wake, already having risen after a court verdict on Ayodhya went in favour of a temple and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was placed under a lockdown last August.

Given the dangers of terrorism in Kashmir, it has long been under the NSA on the ground that its provisions are effective in dealing with insurgency. While Delhi has had peaceful demonstrations against the Centre’s citizenship policy, with instances of unruly unrest in some localities, there is no visible sign of anything worse. As for a terror plot, the alleged terrorist links of a J&K police officer apart, a red alert on this menace doesn’t seem justified either. While national security is paramount, the Centre must ensure that the NSA’s harsh provisions are not misused to quell democratic dissent. Delhi, due for polls, must feel free to voice itself. The vibrancy of our democracy depends on it.

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