Bengaluru, August 16 (The New Indian Express): Sedition charges have been filed against Amnesty International India on Monday, following alleged slogans uttered against India and the Indian Army at an event held by the organization here on Saturday.
The international advocacy group has also been booked for unlawful assembly, promoting enmity and rioting.
The event at The United Theological College on human rights violations in Kashmir had spiraled into a controversy after right-wing organizations objected to remarks made at the event.
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) staged a protest during the program and on the following day, had filed a complaint with the JC Nagar police. In the complaint, filed by Jayaprakash, ABVP organising secretary, Bengaluru, it was alleged that the organizers had expressed support for terrorists and Pakistan.
Naming Professor Sindhujaa Aiyengar, journalist Seema Mustafa and Kashmiri musician Roushan Illahi in the complaint, he said: “They sang anti-national songs, raised anti-national slogans and made anti-India speeches.”
The event was titled ‘Broken Homes’. A dispute arose when the discipline of the armed forces was discussed. Slogans, both pro and against the army, were raised, following which the ABVP staged a protest.
Condemning the sedition charges slapped on it, representatives of Amnesty International India said the organzsation, as a matter of policy, does not take any position in favour of or against demands for self-determination.
The human rights group said that the Bengaluru Police were informed about the event well in advance. It also invited representation from the Kashmiri Pandit community in Bengaluru at the event to speak about the human rights violations faced by members of the community.
Among those who spoke at the event were the family of Shahzad Ahmad Khan, one of the men killed in the Macchil extrajudicial execution, where five Army personnel were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
It said: “Amnesty International India considers that the right to freedom of expression under international human rights law includes the right to peacefully advocate political solutions, as long as it does not involve incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
The group added that Supreme Court has ruled that expression can be restricted on grounds of public order only when it involves incitement to imminent violence or disorder. India’s archaic sedition law has been used to harass and persecute activists and others for their peaceful exercise of their right to free expression.
Saying that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as any act or attempt “to bring into hatred or contempt, or…excite disaffection towards the government,” the rights group recalled that Mahatma Gandhi had called the law “the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.
‘Sedition case shows lack of belief in freedom’
Reacting to the sedition charges, Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty, stated,
“Merelely organizing an event to defend constitutional values is now being branded ‘anti-India’ and criminalized. The police were invited and present at the event. The filing of a complaint against us now, and the registration of a case of sedition, shows a lack of belief in fundamental rights and freedoms in India.”