Hoping sedition case is withdrawn, Bidar school students offer prayers

Police turned up at the school for the fifth time on Monday to question students, even as a parent and a teacher continue to be in jail on charges of sedition.
Hoping sedition case is withdrawn, Bidar school students offer prayers
Hoping sedition case is withdrawn, Bidar school students offer prayers
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Even as 11-year-old Ayesha* (name changed) waits to hear the fate of her mother’s bail petition in the Bidar District and Sessions court, students in Shaheen Primary and High School on Tuesday evening gathered at the courtyard of their school to break their fast and offer prayers, in the hope that the recent controversy over a play staged in the school tides over. 

“Around 1,000 hostel students in the school gathered inside the school premises to pray and break their fast. This has been happening for the last three days after the police arrested the mother of a student and a teacher of the school,” Touseef Madikeri, CEO of Shaheen Primary and High School in Bidar, told TNM. 

Police officials in Bidar district continued to question Ayesha’s batchmates at Shaheen Primary and High School on Tuesday after they turned up at the school for the fifth time. Police officials in plainclothes, led by Basaveshwara Hira, Bidar Deputy Superintendent of Police, questioned students involved in a programme organised in the school on January 21. 

“The investigating officer is collecting information about the play from staff and students in the school. The officers are speaking to the students based on their availability. A few students were not present when the police visited earlier. We cannot divulge details of the investigation at this moment,” Bidar Superintendent of Police Nagesh DL told TNM. 

During the programme organised on January 21, a play was staged by students of classes 4, 5 and 6 in which they voiced dissent against the new controversial citizenship law, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Police officials in Bidar registered an FIR against the school management charging them with sedition after a complaint by an activist of the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) Nilesh Rakshala on January 26. Police arrested Fareeda Begum, head-teacher of the school’s primary section and Nabunnisa, the mother of Ayesha, a student who performed in the play. Ayesha is accused of delivering a dialogue that allegedly ‘insulted’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

“Since the arrests, there is an environment of fear in the school because the police are here every day to question students. The police are repeatedly asking the same questions about how the play was staged, who scripted it and who were involved in it,” Touseef told TNM. 

The duo arrested are still in jail since their bail hearing is set to come up in court only on Wednesday as the judge has been on leave. 

Nazbunnisa is a widow and since her arrest, Ayesha is living with her neighbour Mohammed Hafeez, a cloth shop owner in Bidar. “She does not have family in Bidar so we are taking care of her now. She is crying whenever she is reminded of her mother and she is not eating food properly. She is constantly worried about what has happened in the last two weeks,” says Hafeez, speaking to TNM. 

On Tuesday, Rizwan Arshad, Congress MLA from Bengaluru’s Shivajinagar, visited the school and spoke to the school’s management. He also registered his displeasure over the police’s handling of the issue in a meeting with Bidar SP Nagesh DL. A protest was also held in Bengaluru’s Mysore Bank Circle by ‘We The People of India’, the collective that has been organising anti-CAA protests across the state in the last two months.

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