IT IS NOT unusual for the governments and ruling party to misuse the police and other government agencies to take on their opponents. It is not at all justified but the current government at the Centre and the BJP governments in some of the states have crossed all limits.
The latest example of high handedness, which is bound to send shock waves across the country and the world, involves filing of a sedition case for a school play staged in the remote town of Bidar in Karnataka!
The principal of the school and the widowed mother of a nine years old girl have been arrested and sent to police remand. They have been charged with sedition against the country which provides for immediate arrest. As per the provisions of the archaic act, which was formulated by the British rulers to curb the freedom movement, "whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life....”
This was only the latest of the bizarre allegations of sedition against citizens including poets, film makers, journalists, political leaders, social workers and intellectuals.
As if it was not bad enough to charge the school authorities with contempt, several children as young as nine year olds, were subjected to questioning for five days by uniformed police personnel in the school premises. They were asked for upto five hours each day as to who scripted the play and what were they told by their teachers.
When even minor delinquents, including rapists, are not supposed to be interrogated by police or put in regular prisons, here the Karnataka police has crossed all limits by putting the fear of uniformed police questioning young students who may not be even aware of sedition laws. Ironically, it was reported recently that instructions were sent to schools in Gujarat asking school children to write a post card each in praise of CAA "in neat handwriting” and post these to the prime minister’s office! The report was later denied by the government.
Also read some earlier write-ups by VIPIN PUBBY:
The play staged within the school premises, in this case, had made adverse comments on the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and had derogatory references against prime minister Narendra Modi. This propelled the police to unleash terror on the school children, studying in classes 6 to 8, whose only ‘crime’ was to stage a play critical of the citizenship law.
The arrested mother of a child is supposed to have inserted a reference in one of the dialogues in the play. Her daughter is now in the care of a neighbour as she faces charges of sedition against the country.
Several organisations of parents and social workers have raised the issue and have severely criticised the step taken by the Bidar police. In an open letter to the authorities these organisations have demanded immediate withdrawal of the case and release of the principal and the mother of a child.
The letter by the group that describes itself as "Parents for Peace, Justice and Plurality”, said in "blatant violation of the Juvenile Justice Act (2015), the New Town station police have repeatedly interrogated the school children, some as young as 9, without allowing their parents to be present, for hours at a stretch”. Alleging "illegal and inhumane actions of Bidar Police, the letter said that "If there was any doubt that the police department is being used as an instrument of those in power, this incident should put it to rest. The police were acting under the diktats of the state government and using an archaic sedition law to suppress dissent against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) and added that "we do not want our children to grow under the fear of terror - inflicted by non-state operatives or by those in power...".
This was only the latest of the bizarre allegations of sedition against citizens including poets, film makers, journalists, political leaders, social workers and intellectuals. A few months ago 49 prominent personalities were booked for sedition. All that these personalities, including historian Ramachandra Guha, actor Konkana Sen Sharma, and filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Aparna Sen, had done was to write an open letter to the prime minister to express concern over incidents of lynchings in the name of holy cow.
(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)
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