Bail granted in Bidar sedition case

Published : February 15, 2020 16:29 IST

A KPCC protest against police action in the Bidar sedition case, in Bengaluru on February 15. Photo: Sudhakara Jain

Two women who were arrested on charges of sedition by the Bidar Police and lodged in the Bidar District prison were granted bail by the Principal District and Sessions Court in that city on February 14 and released on February 15 after spending two weeks in jail. Nazbunnisa and Fareeda Begum were arrested on January 30 after a complaint was registered by the Bidar Police against the performance of a play that had content was allegedly derogatory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The charge against Nazbunnisa was that her 11-year-old daughter allegedly spoke lines that were offensive to the Prime Minister while performing the play, which was about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Fareeda Begum is the head of the Urdu section of Shaheen Primary School where the play was staged and she was implicated because the play was performed under her supervision. Shaheen Primary School in Bidar is under Muslim management and provides subsidised education for underprivileged children in the city.

The case attracted national attention and the arrests as well as the charge of sedition were widely condemned by human rights activists and opposition party politicians.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in the State, including Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Bidar district-in-charge Minister Prabhu Chauhan justified the police action and the charge of sedition.

Opposition party leaders, many of whom visited the two women in Bidar, criticised the harsh measures taken by the police.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Brinda Karat, in a statement, said, “A child is saying some words in innocence in a play, leading to the arrest of her mother and teacher. It is absolutely ridiculous to put them under sedition charges.”

Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also visited Bidar and condemned the arrests.

Speaking to Frontline, B.T. Venkatesh, a senior advocate from Bengaluru who represented the women in the court hearing on February 11, said that the sedition charge was “ridiculous”. “There was a dialogue that had the word ‘chappals’ in it. The mother of the child gave her chappals to her daughter and so has been implicated in the case. Here, providing the chappals became a seditious act for the police. Apart from sedition, the two women are also charged under Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code. Under this section, the person has to be provoked and commit a crime,” Venkatesh said.

Venkatesh also said: “I say this is a systematic scheme where you can prosecute a community and even the slightest dissent from that community is intolerable.”

The charge of sedition has not been withdrawn and the case is still being investigated by the Bidar Police.