Statement: Haryana Police Seeks to Cancel Passports and Visas of Farmers Identified Through Drone & CCTV cams to be “causing disturbances” during #FarmersProtest

We are deeply perturbed by this decision and the police’s unchecked use of surveillance technologies to crack down on dissent and free speech.

29 February, 2024
1 min read

STATEMENT: Haryana police is in the process of cancelling passports and visas of farmers identified through drone and CCTV cameras to be “causing disturbances” during the farmers’ protests. We are deeply perturbed by this decision and the police’s unchecked use of surveillance technologies to crack down on dissent and free speech.

On February 23, IFF wrote to the Haryana Home Dept in response to the police’s use of drones to fire tear gas shells on protesting farmers. Here, we noted potential privacy concerns with the usage of drones during a protest, in the absence of any transparency on whether they were equipped with surveillance tools. It has now become clear that the drones had cameras, and our fears around protest surveillance have rung true.

Surveillance of protesters and collection of data about their faces, location or movement severely jeopardises their fundamental rights to privacy and to freedom of speech and movement, as enshrined in Art. 21, 19(1)(e) and 19(1)(d) of the Constitution respectively.

Indian police forces use drones and CCTV cameras in a regulatory vacuum. Haryana police claims that it has identified farmers ‘causing disturbances’ by “accessing their photos and residential details” – but we have little transparency into whether this was done through facial recognition technology, & how their personal data has been collected, used, stored, & shared.

Identification through surveillance tools such as CCTV cameras has been known to be inaccurate and based on existing biases, which may unfairly misidentify and implicate any individual.

We are concerned that Haryana police’s extreme act of cancelling passports and visas, along with reportedly issuing notices to protesting farmers stating their farming lands will be seized and bank accounts frozen, is built on unregulated and inaccurate surveillance systems and instils a deafening chilling effect on every citizen’s fundamental right to protest drawing from Art. 19(1)(a) and (b) of the Constitution.

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