Karnataka Home Minister justifies sedition charge against Bidar school

Published : February 06, 2020 13:26 IST

At the Shaheen Primary and High School in Bidar, children being questioned by policemen in plainclothes, while other children wait their turn outside the room, on February 3. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai launching a signature campaign in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act at Surathkal near Mangaluru on January 7. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai has justified the Bidar district police’s decision to file a sedition charge against a school where children performed a play that allegedly “insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi”. Speaking to mediapersons, he said, “What was said by the child was very very abusive and in bad taste against the Prime Minister…. So everything has been done as per law.”

The play was performed on January 21 at the Shaheen Primary and High School in Bidar and a clip from it was shared later on social media. Following this, a right-wing activist, Neelesh Rakshyal, filed a complaint with the Bidar Police on January 26 against the school and the person who shared the clip alleging that they were spreading lies about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).

The complaint also alleged that the students said they would “beat the P.M. with chappals”. Following this, the Bidar Police filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the school and on January 30 arrested the mother of a nine-year-old child who is supposed to have made the offensive comment and Fareeda Begum, who heads the primary section of the school. Both have been lodged in the Bidar District and Sessions Court and await their bail hearing.

The FIR has been lodged under draconian sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) such as Sections 124 A, 504 and 505, which respectively deal with sedition, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, and statements conducing to public mischief. There has been an outcry against the police action and the repeated questioning of the children who participated in the play, all nine or 10 years old, in contravention of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015. The children have been interrogated at least five times for hours at a stretch and without the presence of their parents.

Questions have also been raised against the sedition charge filed against the school as nothing in the play was provocative enough to justify the levelling of such a charge. Considering that there was not even the slightest hint of violence that could incite persons to attempt to overthrow the state, what was the reason for slapping sedition, activists asked.

The haste and the blatant disregard for the children’s welfare displayed by the Bidar Police is in stark contrast to the indifference showed by the State administration to the reenactment of the destruction of the Babri Masjid at Sri Rama Vidyakendra High School, an RSS school located in Dakshina Kannada district in coastal Karnataka, on December 16. Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Puducherry Governor Kiran Bedi and several Karnataka Ministers were present at the event.

With Basavaraj Bommai lending his support to the police action in Bidar, State government is widely seen as endorsing an aggressive policy to intimidate protesters against the CAA.