Lakshadweep: Police in Lakshadweep’s Kavaratti has charged a local filmmaker with sedition following the TV channel debate on June 7 where she called the Union Territory’s administrator a “bioweapon being used by the government of India” against the Lakshadweep residents.
The Police served a notice to Ayesha Sulthana to appear before it on June 20, in connection with her remarks made on a Malayalam TV channel during which Sultana reportedly said Modi’s government was using the islands’ administrator, Praful Khoda Patel, as a “bioweapon”.
This unfolds amid the already prevailing local sentiments against the new Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel. Patel, 63, is the first non-bureaucrat administrator of the Lakshadweep islands and once served as home minister of Modi’s home state, Gujarat, when the Indian prime minister was its chief minister for more than a decade.
The notice that has been served by Sub Inspector Ameer Bin Mohammed containing charges under 124 A and 153 B of the CrPC, both of which are non-bailable offences.
Sulthana hails from Chelath Island in Lakshadweep. Besides being a model, she has worked in numerous films in Malayalam.
Ever since the new administrator took charge, he has faced a severe criticism as local representatives allege that Patel is ‘trying to implement the Sangh parivar agenda’ in the otherwise calm and peace loving island.
The Kerala Assembly earlier this month also saw unanimous resolution being passed in the demanding the removal of Patel.
The Lakshadweep islands – popular with tourists – are run by an administrator appointed by the Indian president.
Since taking over the Lakshadweep administration in December last year, Patel has pushed through a slew of new laws and proposals – ‘without consulting locally elected representatives’ – in India’s only Muslim-majority territory apart from Jammu and Kashmir.
Lakshadweep is an idyllic archipelago of 36 islands – 10 of them inhabited – spread over a 32-square-kilometre area in the sea, about 200km (124 miles) off the southwestern coast of the Indian Peninsula.
It is the smallest among India’s eight “Union Territories” (UTs), with a population of 65,000 people – 97 percent of them Muslims – who now fear losing their land, livelihoods and other rights as the government backs plans to develop the remote archipelago as a tourist hub.
On Monday, the entire island was on a day long hunger strike by remaining in their homes and was fasting demanding the removal of Patel.
Reacting to the slapping of sedition charges, Aisha Sulthana said that she will raise her voice louder for her motherland.
“They have booked an FIR evoking sedition charges. But the truth will win. The BJP leader who lodged the complaint is a native of Lakshadweep and he has betrayed his motherland. I will continue fighting for Lakshadweep and people who betrayed their motherland will be isolated. To my fellowmen: The sea protect you and you protect the sea. The one feeling the betrayers have and we don’t have is fear. You cannot subdue me. My voice will rise louder,” she said in a Facebook post.
The Supreme Court has clearly said while quashing the FIR against journalist Vinod Dua that sedition charges cannot be slapped on a citizen for criticism of public measures or comments on government action. The public has the right to criticise the government. The apex court has repeatedly said that freedom of speech and the right to information is the basic characteristics of our constitution. The case against Aisha Sulthana is a misuse of section 124 A of the IPC,” said former director-general of prosecution Adv T Asaf Ali.
Activist and former leader of the Naxalite movement K Venu said the use of the term bioweapon cannot attract sedition charges. “Aisha has said that she used the term while referring to the oppressive ways of Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel. This is only criticism and cannot attract sedition charges,” he said.