Monday, 30th October 2017

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School to fight sedition charge

Plan to move court against FIR over skit

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 30.01.20, 2:46 AM
  • Updated 30.01.20, 2:46 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Children being questioned by police (From video clip found on Facebook)

The management of a Karnataka school that has been booked for sedition after a group of Class IV students enacted a satirical skit against the citizenship amendment plans to approach the high court to have the FIR quashed.

After the January 21 skit at the Shaheen Primary and High School in Bidar, north Karnataka, a local “agriculturist and social worker” had on Sunday lodged a police complaint on the basis of a video clip, found on Facebook.

Abdul Qadeer, chairperson of the Shaheen Group of Institutions, told The Telegraph on Wednesday: “My family and legal team are working on the case since we feel there was nothing to call for such a strong case against the management of such a reputable institution.”

His nephew Abdul Subhan said anticipatory bail applications would be filed by Thursday morning. “We then plan to approach Karnataka High Court to quash the FIR.”

Qadeer said the skit indeed contained “unwanted references” to the anxiety many people felt about the new citizenship regime, and described this as a “lapse”.

“There was a lapse — some unwanted references crept into the script since the class teacher did not screen it properly,” he said. “But I don’t understand the need to harass children by getting them interrogated by police.”

Pictures of policemen questioning two boys who had acted in the skit have been circulating on social media since Tuesday.

“Where was the need to question children who are just nine or ten years old? Such harassment is uncalled for,” Qadeer said.

In the grainy Facebook video, a girl playing an elderly woman’s part is seen pleading with an official that she has no documents.

Another child can be heard saying: “The government is asking Muslims to leave India.”

To this, a third child asks the girl playing an elderly woman: “Amma (Mother), Modi is asking us to show documents of our father and grandfather. If not, he is telling us to leave the country.”

The girl replies: “If anyone asks for documents, hit them with slippers.”

The FIR names the “president or head” of the school, the school management, and the Facebook user who shared the video clip on his page and goes by the name of Mohammed Yusuf.

In the complaint, Neelesh Rakshal, 34, has accused the school of spreading misinformation, citing the skit’s references to Muslims being asked to leave the country.

Contacted by this newspaper, Rakshal denied belonging to any party. “I have no political affiliations. I’m an agriculturist by profession and I do social work. I filed the complaint only as an Indian citizen,” Rakshal said.

Bidar superintendent of police T.P. Sreedhara did not answer calls from this newspaper, while his office said he was “out on the field”. In an interaction with local reporters on Tuesday, Sreedhara had denied the police were harassing children in the name of investigations.

“That (the interrogation) was part of the investigation process. We did not harass the children,” he said.

Subhan said the school would be seeking anticipatory bail because: “We don’t want to take a chance since the FIR means that anyone from the management can face arrest.”

He blamed the FIR on intolerance. “It was just a satirical skit. It only referred to the anxiety among the common people after the citizenship amendment was enacted,” he said.