Oppn Demands for Withdrawal of Sedition Charges Against 50 Celebrities

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An FIR was lodged in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district against celebrities including Bollywood actress Konkana Sen, director Maniratnam, Aparna Sen, Shayam Benegal, Ramchandra Guha and 45 others,.

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – Reacting to the sedition cases foisted on nearly 50 celebrities, including Aparna Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Ramchandra Guha, with shock and dismay, Opposition parties on Sunday denounced the move attributing it to “authoritarianism and fascism”.

The seditions charged were made against the celebrities for raising concern over growing cases of mob lynching and hate crimes with the Prime Minister of India. Terming the decision as a sign of growing “authoritarianism and fascism” in the country, they demanded rescinding of the charges, which violate freedom of expression and dissent, against the eminent intellectuals’ and artists immediately.

In the letter, the celebrities had demanded that lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities should be stopped immediately while stressing proclaiming that there was “no democracy without dissent” and that the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan was reduced to a “provocative war cry”.

Strongly condemning the Muzaffarpur police in Bihar for registering FIR against the celebrities, the CPI (M) pointed out that they are prominent Indians who have great accomplishments in their respective fields.

A CPI (M) Polit Bureau member said that simply writing a letter to prime minister expressing opinions on important matters cannot be construed as an anti-national act. “This is tantamount to punishing all those who have a dissenting opinion on the policies of the incumbent government and a complete negation of democratic rights which reflects growing authoritarianism in the country.”

He called it surprising that a court in Muzaffarpur orders registering of a case even as the Supreme Court ruled as early as 1962 that the sedition clause cannot be invoked unless there is a direct call or instigation to violence against the state.

He said the CPI (M) has always opposed continuation of the sedition law since independence. The law was enacted during the British regime to protect the crown and had been used widely to detain and silence Indian freedom fighters. It would be most appropriate if we remove the provision in statue books at a time when the country is observing the 150th anniversary of Gandhi ji, who too was victim of the draconian law, he averred.

Welfare Party of India also criticised the filing of FIR against the eminent personalities.  Calling it true face of “fascism”, its national president, Dr SQR Ilyas, told CaravanDaily said it is an unprecedented incident as mere writing a letter has become the basis of invocation of such draconian law.

He said this was never heard in world’s largest democracy citizens cannot engage with their representative head and voice dissent. This amounts to denial of freedom of speech and expression which is a constitutional right.

He called it height of hypocrisy that concerned citizens of the country are subjected to such humiliation for drawing attention towards law and order while those responsible for lynching are garlanded.

It may be mentioned here that as many as 181 hate crimes have been recorded in the first six months of the current year while from September 2015, after the BJP coming to power at the Center, to June 2019, as many as 902 such incidents recorded by a hate-tracker website.

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