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Beyond Kasab guilty verdict, Mumbai attacks reshape Indian law

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Indian security laws are a legacy of British colonialism – the Indian Penal Code under which Kasab is charged with waging war predates its 1947 independence. But it has a more recent record of using antiterrorism laws to intimidate political or popular opposition that makes these measures especially controversial.

Since the 1970s, the central government has used such laws to suppress, sometimes violently, regional insurgencies and separatist movements in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, the northeast, and more recently, Maoists in central India.

“In some respects, like Israel, India has been dealing with significant national security concerns since its independence,” says Sudha Setty, associate professor at the Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, Mass., adding that this may explain why Indian “counterterrorism laws have been so robust.”

India’s first nationwide terrorism law was adopted in 1985, replacing a law targeted at Sikh separatists in Punjab. The law was allowed to expire 10 years later after widespread complaints about human rights violations. But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, in 2002, a similar law was passed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled parliament.

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