Sedition charge on Pak team admirers

Police in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have cracked down on some of those who had celebrated Pakistan's victory over India in the Champions Trophy final at the Oval on Sunday.

By Rasheed Kidwai and K.M. Rakesh
  • Published 21.06.17

June 20: Police in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have cracked down on some of those who had celebrated Pakistan's victory over India in the Champions Trophy final at the Oval on Sunday.

Since India maintains diplomatic relations with Pakistan and any celebration of sporting achievement per se is not a crime, the police have slapped on them charges ranging from sedition to outraging religious feelings to causing disharmony.

In Karnataka, where four youths have been arrested, a police source suggested that the action defused a law-and-order situation whipped up by outfits sympathetic to the Sangh parivar.

The most stringent charge of sedition has been slapped on 15 people from Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh following complaints that they raised pro-Pakistan slogans after the match. Sedition attracts a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Burhanpur is a Muslim-majority town where Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's wife Mumtaz Mahal was buried before her mortal remains were transferred to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

A sub-inspector at Shahpur police station in Burhanpur, R.A. Yadav, said the 15 men had been booked under IPC Sections 124A (sedition) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

The sedition law, widely perceived as a pre-Independence relic that should be scrapped, seeks to punish attempts to "excite disaffection towards the government". The expression "disaffection" includes disloyalty - presumably the reason for invoking the law against those celebrating the victory of Pakistan.

According to sub-inspector Yadav, some residents of Mohad had complained about the men celebrating Pakistan's victory and bursting crackers.

"We received a call from Subhash Koli, a resident of Mohad," Yadav said. In his complaint, Koli alleged that the men raised pro-Pakistan slogans.

Station house officer Sanjay Pathak said the preliminary probe had revealed that the 15 men - identified as Iqbal, Zuber, Rubab, Firoze, Basheer, Mubarak, Sajjad, Anees, Sarfaraz, Imam, Salman, Sharief, Mahmood, Imran and Ramzan - had burst crackers and raised pro-Pakistan slogans. The men are aged between 18 and 35.

Pathak claimed that the conduct of the accused had raised tensions in Mohad. "We had to deploy police to maintain law and order," he said. Although no incidents were reported, Mohad has a history of communal violence.

At Sheopur district in Madhya Pradesh, the police have arrested one Mahboob Ali for posting an "anti-India" message on Facebook. According to town inspector Sunil Khemriya, Ali was arrested following a complaint lodged by residents of Sheopur.

An English translation of the post did not appear particularly incendiary, especially viewed against the explosion of hate messages on social media.

In south Karnataka, four youths identified as Riyaz, Samad, Munir and Jabir were arrested on the charges of trying to outrage religious feelings and create enmity by celebrating Pakistan's victory.

They had allegedly raised inflammatory slogans and victory chants and burst crackers while riding on motorbikes through the streets of Hosakote village in the hill district of Kodagu, 230km from Bangalore.

The youths were overpowered by residents and taken to the local Suntikoppa police station, where they were kept.

But when the temperature started soaring in the area and hundreds of activists led by BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders protested in front of the police station last evening, the police booked the youths, in their twenties, under IPC Sections 153B and 295A and arrested them. Today, they were sent to 14 days' police custody.

Although Section 153B relates to bearing "true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India... or uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India", the police clarified that the accused had been booked under a sub-section that deals with "assertion, counsel, plea or appeal (that) causes or is likely to cause disharmony or feelings of enmity or hatred or ill-will".

Section 295A deals with "deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs".

The non-bailable sections attract a maximum punishment of three years in jail.

The youths live in a locality that falls under the jurisdiction of the BJP-run Somwarpet Town panchayat. They have not been linked to any religious outfits that are active in the area.

Sampat Kumar, the deputy superintendent of Kushalnagar, said: "The district court allowed our plea for 14 days' custody as the investigation is pending."

Before the arrests were made late last evening, hundreds of Hindu activists had gathered outside Suntikoppa police station and demanded that the youths be booked. Kodagu BJP president B.B. Bharatish and VHP district general secretary D. Narasimha filed a written complaint against the youths.

Another group of Hindu activists staged a protest nearby, threatening to continue till the youths were arrested.