The mother of a student and a head teacher of a Karnataka school were arrested and booked for sedition on Thursday by police officials in Bidar in connection with a school play which was allegedly against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The arrests were made after the school authorities blocked the police from further questioning the students.
Nazbunnisa, 26, the mother of a girl who played a role in the play and Fareeda Begum, 52, the head teacher who was involved in staging it, were arrested by police officials from Bidar New Town Police Station. Fareeda is the teacher in-charge of the primary section of the school.
The school was booked under sections 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 505(2) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes), 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting, attempting to promote disharmony) and 34 (common intent) of the Indian Penal Code. The parent and the teacher have been booked under other sections.
The arrests were made based on a complaint by Nilesh Rakshala, an activist of the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) after the play was staged by students of classes 4, 5 and 6 at the Shaheen Primary and High School on January 21. Following the complaint, three policemen, two of whom were in uniform and one in plain clothes, visited the school and questioned the students who were part of the play, including a 9-year-old child.
While the play was focused on the CAA, the school's CEO Tauseef Madikeri says it was one particular line in the play that caused trouble. Speaking to The Wire, Tauseef says that the line was a generic one, which was wrongly interpreted.
In a video reportedly of the same event, which has now been taken down, a child is heard telling another child, “The government is telling Muslims to leave India and go away.” In reply, the other child says, “Amma, Modi is saying show documents of your father and grandfather otherwise he is telling us to leave the country.” At this point, another child is heard saying, “Hit them with slippers if anybody asks for documents.” It has now been confirmed that it was Nazbunnisa's daughter who said this dialogue in the play.
The Karnataka police were earlier criticised for questioning the children in school. The police however claimed that this was doen according to procedure.
Sedition is an archaic law that has often been criticised both by civil society and courts. Many judges have pointed out in the past that sedition law has been misused by police and used frivolously. Sedition, according to the Indian Penal Code has been defined as an act by any person by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government.
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