Amnesty India faces sedition charges over Kashmir debate2 min read . Updated: 17 Aug 2016, 04:27 AM IST
Aakar Patel, executive director, Amnesty India, said, 'organizing an event to defend constitutional values is being branded anti-India and criminalized'
Bengaluru: A case of sedition among other serious charges have been filed against unnamed members of Amnesty International India in Bengaluru’s JC Nagar Police station on Monday. This, after an event organized by Amnesty—Broken Families at United Theological College—resulted in many participants chanting anti-India and anti-Indian Army slogans, as alleged by Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad—a right-wing students’ organisation.
JC Nagar police confirmed that a First Information Report has been filed against Amnesty under sections, 124a (sedition), 153a (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 142 (unlawful assembly) and 147 (rioting)
Karnataka home minister, G Parameshwar, on Sunday, said that the matter will be investigated, according to a Press Trust of India report.
The incident has already triggered a major political backlash by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the Congress government in the state denied any anti-India sloganeering at the event itself.
The ABVP have sought the intervention of the Union government to punish the organisers and have written a letter to Union home minister, Rajnath Singh.
Meanwhile, former chief minister of Karnataka and state BJP president B.S. Yeddyurappa wrote a letter in which he claims that there is a video which clearly depicts the people who indulged in anti-India sloganeering.
Calling the state government’s actions ‘outrageous’, he said that all those Kashmiri youth who allegedly shouted anti-India slogans had not been arrested but members of ABVP were arrested. “It my earnest request to direct the authorities to investigate the role being played by Amnesty International in organising such a seminar with an innate ulterior motive only to malign the Indian Army in particular and the entire India in General," he said in a letter on Monday.
“Merely organizing an event to defend constitutional values is now being branded ‘anti-India’ and criminalized," said Aakar Patel, executive director, Amnesty International India.
“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."
Among those who spoke at the event were the family of Shahzad Ahmad Khan, one of the men killed in the Macchil extra-judicial execution, where five Army personnel were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, the NGO said in a statement posted on its website.
It also pointed out that the Bengaluru Police were informed about the event well in advance and it had invited representation from the Kashmiri Pandit community in Bengaluru at the event to speak about the human rights violations faced by members of that community as well.
Towards the end of the event, some of those who attended raised slogans, some of which referred to calls for ‘azaadi’ (freedom), the NGO confirmed.
While it does not take any position in favour of or against demands for self-determination, the NGO 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.
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, the NGO said.