Congress party seems to be a divided house over the filing of sedition case against the NGO Amnesty International in Bengaluru. The state police had filed an FIR against the NGO on Monday after BJP-affiliated student outfit ABVP lodged a complaint alleging “anti-national” slogans were raised at an event on Kashmir last week organised by Amnesty in the city.
While the Congress-run government in Karnataka is holding on to its position that probe will decide if any law was violated, senior brass in New Delhi criticised the state government over the filing of Sedition charges. According to sources, even Rahul Gandhi had spoken to some party leaders over the issue.
Former Union Law minister Veerappa Moily, who is a senior politician from Karnataka, termed the action as “illegal and improper” and something intended “only to silence the protest or resistance”.
“…filing the case against Amnesty International, particularly the case of sedition, I think it is illegal and improper and I think this is only to silence the protest or resistance. It amounts to violating the freedom of speech,” Moily said in a prime-time show aired on New Delhi based news channel.
Expressing he is unhappy with the state home minister G Parameshwara, Moily said he would be “questioning” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah too on the issue.
“…I talked to the Home minister of Karnataka. I told him, how it can happen? You know the sedition charge should be filed for conspiring and waging war against the nation and in fact it cannot be just invoked against mere sloganeering,” he said.
To a specific query, he added “I will be questioning (the Chief Minister)” and request him to make an inquiry in this matter and that it should not happen again.
Commenting that sedition charges are very easily and very casually being slapped in the country, he told, “Just because ABVP has filed a complaint on these charges, I don’t think police is entitled to repeat it in their FIR without a proper investigation, particularly a charge like sedition, which is a very serious offence”.
Another party heavyweight Digvijay Singh, who is also AICC in-charge of the state, dialled Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah over the issue.
“I spoke to CM Karnataka and he has assured me that no arrests would be made pending investigation. Only FIR has been filed,” Singh shared his remarks on the micro-blogging site Twitter on Wednesday, adding “Simply raising slogans is not a fit case to be charged with sedition. It is a law which British used against our Leaders in Freedom Movement”.
Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah has said the law will take its own course to find out whether the offence committed by ‘pro-freedom Kashmiris’ amounted to sedition.
On the other hand, claiming that none of its employees raised any slogans, Amnesty International had submitted videos and CCTV footage to the police for investigation.
The Bengaluru police had registered an FIR under IPC sections—142 (being member of an unlawful assembly), 143 (whoever is a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).
A panel discussion organised by Amnesty on Saturday had turned chaotic as some Kashmiri students and youngsters, attending the event, entered into heated arguments with a Kashmiri Pandit leader for hailing Indian Army. The event was organised by Amnesty International India at United Theological College in the city.
(With inputs from the PTI)