Arrest over quarantine snap draws flak in Sikkim
The Sikkim government has drawn flak for the arrest of student leader Lalit Pokhrel Sharma on charges of spreading misinformation about the condition of a quarantine facility at Pakyong in East Sikkim.
Sharma, who is a member of the Sikkkim University Students’ Association (Susa), was arrested on Sunday on the basis of a complaint lodged by the Pakyong sub-divisional officer for posting pictures and comments on the condition of the quarantine facility.
He has been charged under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code for circulating material that could cause fear and alarm among public and Section 188 of the IPC for disobeying order duly promulgated by a public servant, among others.
Biraj Adhikari, the spokesman for the Hamro Sikkim Party, demanded the immediate release of Sharma and withdrawal of all the charges against him.
“The social media reports and photographs uploaded by Shri Sharma should have been used to make things better for the people who will be using these quarantine facilities as the photos were of the actual location and not photo-shopped copies,” he said in a release issued here.
The HSP, he added, would not tolerate any effort to impinge on the right to free speech.
Passang Sherpa, the coordinator IAM371F Campaign, echoed Adhikari and warned that “authoritarian” measures would only bring distrust and weaken the Sikkimese society.
“The authorities in Sikkim are already using the crisis and their emergency powers to abridge citizens’ fundamental rights. One clean trend is heightened control over free expression under the guise of fighting ‘misinformation’ about the virus,” alleged Sherpa.
Condemning the arrest of Sharma, the Sikkim Progressive Youth Forum (SPYF), too, demanded his immediate release. “We believe it is a violation of the fundamental right of citizens to arrest an individual for his Facebook post.”
“… The said post, which is still there on his Facebook page, he had asked for the better facilities for the quarantined people,” said the forum in a statement issued here.