Legal provisions invoked include spreading enmity between two groups

Amnesty India booked for sedition and rioting over Kashmir event in Bengaluru
news Sedition Monday, August 15, 2016 - 18:13

Bengaluru police booked human rights advocacy group Amnesty International India on charges of sedition and spreading enmity between two groups on Monday.

The JC Nagar police have booked a case against Amnesty, following a complaint by an ABVP member on August 13, on the day the human rights group organised “Broken Families”, an event on alleged rights violations in Kashmir.

Inspector Ramesh Kumar told The News Minute that no member of Amnesty had been named in the FIR which has been registered under Sections 142, 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 124a (sedition), 153a (promoting enmity) and 149 (common intent) of the IPC. Ramesh said that a call would be taken on arrest only after investigation.

Amnesty International’s event on Saturday at the United Theological College had invited family members of people who had allegedly been forced into disappearance by the armed forces. Among the panellists were journalist Seema Mustafa, and former journalist RK Mattoo.

While members of the audience listened quietly to the testimonies of people whose family members had disappeared, arguments began when Mattoo said that the Indian Army was very disciplined. Some of the members of the audience took objection to these remarks.

Slogans for and against the army presence in Kashmir were raised. Later on, people also raised slogans for ‘azaadi’.

In his complaint to the JC Nagar police the ABVP’s Bengaluru City North Organizing Secretary Jayaprakash claimed that the panellists “and Roushan Illahai sang anti-national songs, raised anti-national slogans, made anti-India and anti-national speeches, raised slogans saying India’s Kashmir should go to Pakistan. They (organisers) expressed support for terrorists, Pakistan, and ISI. They organized an anti-India, anti-national program”.

Roushan Illahi is a Kashmiri rapper who goes by the stage name MC Kash. He performed at the event on Saturday.

ABVP demanded the arrest of people who participated in this “anti-national program”. They also claimed that when ABVP workers came forward to stop this (program), they were assaulted.

Karnataka Home Minister had on Sunday said that action would be taken against “anti-nationals”. "Some information is that they may be refugees residing here, but what was their intention, who provoked them, why did they do it, need to be inquired into," he had said.

BJP’s Karnataka state president BS Yeddyurappa had written a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday, demanding strict action against people who had organised the “disturbing” event. 

Reacting to the FIR, Aakar Patel, Amnesty International India’s Executive Director said in a statement, “Merely 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.”

Amnesty added that the Bengaluru Police were informed about the event well in advance. 

“Amnesty International India as a matter of policy does not take any position in favour of or against demands for self-determination. However, 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 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. 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.” 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.”

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