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Haryana Police Seeks Cancellation of Visas, Passports of Protesting Farmers Identified Through CCTVs, Drone Footages

According to reports, farmers have also informed that their phones are being put on surveillance, and that they are being notified by the police that the loss caused to public and private property will be recovered by seizing properties and freezing bank accounts.

In a move that underscores dangers of excessive surveillance measures, the Haryana Police is seeking cancellation of visas and passports of protesting farmers, identified through CCTV cameras and drones, for being involved in “causing disturbances”.

The Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Ambala district in Haryana, Joginder Sharma, has stated that the police has sent photos, images, and addresses of identified farmers to the relevant passport office and embassy. Amid intense security arrangements to restrict farmers’ movement to Delhi, the Haryana police had also used drones to drop tear gas shells on farmers protesting near Shambhu border on February 13, 2024. According to a report by the Indian Express, farmers have also informed that their phones are being put on surveillance, and that they are being notified by the police that the loss caused to public and private property during the march will be recovered by seizing farmers’ properties and freezing their bank accounts.

Why it matters:

The Indian police have been reportedly deploying surveillance technology through CCTV cameras and drones in order to monitor large protests, since 2019. Read more about the use of drones for policing, here. The DSP’s statement confirms that drones are not only being used to drop tear-gas shells, but also to surveil protestors and track them for further action. The extreme measure undertaken by Haryana police to seek cancellation of farmers’ visas and passports based on data captured from these surveillance cameras violates the fundamental right to privacy, freedom of movement, and right to protest peacefully enshrined under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Most importantly, it has also been widely reported by now that a greater reliance on visuals captured through CCTV cameras equipped with facial recognition technology points to dangers of misidentification of individuals, wrongful arrests owing to inaccuracies and systemic errors.

Unchecked use of drones in “regulatory vacuum”

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) had written a letter to the Haryana Home Department questioning the “disproportionate and unconstitutional” use of drones against protesting farmers. IFF highlighted that the law enforcement agencies are using drones for policing, surveillance, security purposes etc. in a regulatory vacuum, without clear guidelines or standard operating procedures that can keep a check on arbitrary use of surveillance equipment.

“Further, there is no transparency on the personal and non-personal data these law enforcement agencies collect through drones, how they use or process it, who they share it with, and so on,” the letter highlighted.

“Surveillance of protesters and collection of data about their faces, location or movement can severely jeopardise their fundamental rights to privacy and to freedom of speech and movement, as enshrined in Articles 21, 19(1)(e) and 19(1)(d) of the Constitution respectively,” the letter added.

Moreover, the letter also pointed that there’s no transparency regarding the design of the drone models used and the kind of technology they are equipped with and the extent of surveillance that is being carried out.

 

Also Read:

 


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Written By

Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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