The Modi government in India continues to use the British era colonial sedition law to silent the dissent. The use of repressive and draconian sedition law has reached to unprecedented levels. Every opposition and resistance to Modi government is considered criminal act and treason. This law was never so widely used throughout the history. But now every political activity and protest against the government and for the rights charged with sedition law.
It is a blatant attempt at the part of Modi government to crush every dissent and opposition. His government is using the fascist and repressive tactics and measures to repress the resistance against Hindutva agenda.
British imperialism introduced many repressive and draconian laws to curb the dissent in British India. The main purpose of these laws was to suppress the resistance and freedom struggle of Indian people against imperialist occupation and exploitation.
Both India and Pakistan kept these repressive and draconian laws even after the independence in 1947. The colonial legacy and mind set still dominates the both states. Both the states have been following the colonial legacy and using these laws to curb and suppress the dissent. Both sides declared all those who dare to challenge the state narrative as traitor and foreign agent.
The sedition law was enacted in 1837 to originally mean to prevent any incitement against British King. This law became a lethal tool in the hands of police to book dissenters and freedom fighters as opposition and resistance against British imperialism increased.
The sedition law was drafted in the colonial era in 1837 by Thomas Babington Macaulay. The law was introduced to suppress dissent against the British crown. Under the provision, anyone has seen create disaffection against the government can be imprisoned up to three years to a life term. India’s freedom icon Mahatma Gandhi was also charged and tried under sedition charges by the British in 1922.
The sedition law and other draconian laws are being used to registered fabricated and bogus cases to keep the accused in prison for long period of time. Mostly political and social activists are framed in fabricated and false cases.
The political and social activists in India are accusing the Indian state for increased use of sedition law in the recent period. Its use has increased under Modi in last few years. According to the data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of sedition cases registered across the country doubled from 35 in 2016 to 75 in 2018. Although official data of 2019 has not been released, activists fear the number could be in thousands.
In Jharkhand state of India, 10,000 tribals were booked under sedition for protesting against the government for issuing an order allowing commercial use of tribal land. “These people were booked for creating disaffection against the government. Four activists working on their movement, were booked under similar charges for writing on social media and sharing news clippings,” said Gunjan Singh, senior advocate at the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN).
“The bar for charging someone with sedition is set very high in the legal books. And most of these FIRs are bogus, as there is no evidence. Putting people behind bars on such charges is only an ad-hoc measure to suppress dissent,” adds Singh.
In February 2016, radical socialist student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on sedition charges. Shehla Rashid, another radical student activist, was booked for sedition over her tweets accusing Indian Army officers of torturing civilians in Jammu and Kashmir.
Modi government has arrested thousands of young Kashmiris under the colonial security laws. They are in prisons for more than 6 months without producing in any court of law. The young Kashmiri activists have been treated like hardened criminals and traitors. This is really shameful for the state that claims to be the largest y in the world. There is no concept of democracy without right of protest-dissent and freedom of expression and media. Peaceful protest is a constitutional right and must for a functional democracy.
Late last month, a 26-year-old female teacher was booked under sedition charges in the southern province of Karnataka for directing a play performed by fourth standard students. The play, performed at Shaheen Educational Institute in Karnataka’s Bidar district had mocked at the recently enacted citizenship law, believed to be discriminatory against Muslims.
Two days later, on Jan. 28, Sharjeel Imam, a student activist, was arrested in his hometown in the eastern province of Bihar, for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches against the citizenship law. The Delhi court sent him to five days of police custody. Another 51 protesters were booked under the law, for shouting slogans in Mumbai in support of Imam.
In another case, a 16-year-old boy, a minor, who worked as a cleaner at a roadside food stall was charged with sedition, alongside 19 others, at Azamgarh in India’s largest province of Uttar Pradesh. Police allege that the boy and others were involved in rioting during the protests.
“The governments are used to be treated like a god. Currently, People are openly opposing and articulating resistance. But no matter how extreme the reaction or resistance is in words or sloganeering, it requires actions and not just words to be booked under sedition, “said Colin Gonsalves, a senior advocate in the Indian Supreme Court.
In October, police in Bihar filed a case of sedition against 49 people, including well-known movie personalities, for writing an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concerns over hate crimes and mob violence targeting minority communities. After an uproar, the charges against these personalities were dropped.
In February 2016, student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on sedition charges. Shehla Rashid, another student activist, was booked for sedition over her tweets accusing Indian Army officers of torturing civilians in Jammu and Kashmir.
The government has ruled out any plans to repeal this colonial-era law, despite demands from civil society and opposition parties. The congress party pledges to repeal the sedition law in its last manifesto. But it failed to do so when it was in power.
“There is no proposal to scrap the provision under the IPC dealing with the offense of sedition. There is a need to retain the provision to effectively combat anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements,” said Nityanand Rai, junior minister of internal security.
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