Questioning the government has become a penal offence and the critics of the administration are criminals.

Ever since the BJP government came to power in 2014, it has tried to suppress the dissenting voices on several occasions. From painting student activist Kanahiya Kumar and others as urban Naxals to blaming Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy for today’s socio-economic problems, the Bharatiya Janata Party has left no stone unturned in carving dissenters as an enemy of the state.

The latest addition to the list is the demonising of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protesters at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. The country has witnessed furore against the act since it was passed in December last year. In the last couple of months, several protesters have been slapped with sedition charges and National Security Act (NSA) for “instigating violence” but the leaders have so far been immune to any such action.

The Delhi Police on Tuesday refused to register an FIR against the four Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the hate speech case and asked for more time to verify the videos. The party has also not taken any action against the leaders and continues to support them.

Instead, Justice Muralidhar who was hearing the matter was told to immediately move to Punjab and Haryana High Court along with two other judges. Although the Centre recommended his transfer on February 12, the notification to immediately move just hours after he came down heavily on the BJP leaders and the Delhi police raised suspicion.

Here are some of the dissenters who were slapped with draconian laws like sedition and National Safety Act.

BJP Legal Cell Seeks FIRs Against Dissenters
As per the latest media reports, the Delhi High court has issued notices in a plea by Lawyers Voice (members of BJP legal cell) seeking registration of FIRs against Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi, Owaisi brothers, Waris Pathan, Manish Sisodia, Amanatullah Khan, and Mehmood Pracha for hate speech and provocation against the government.

Notices were also issued to activist Harsh Mandar, RJ Sayema, actor and activist Swara Bhaskar and others in a separate plea seeking National Investigation Agency led probe for “provocative speeches” and calling for protests against the government.

Dr Kafeel Khan Arrested
On January 29, Dr Kafeel Khan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) from Mumbai airport for allegedly making instigating remarks at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Dr Khan had addressed a protest against CAA, NPR and NRC in Bihar and was on his way to attend an anti-CAA protest in Mumbai when he was taken into custody from the Mumbai airport. Later, on February 14, he was charged under the draconian National Security Act (NSA) as he was granted bail on February 10 but released two days later on February 12. The UP police had filed an FIR against Khan on December 13 for his “inflammatory” remarks at a protest rally in AMU.

The UP police in its FIR accused Khan of sowing seeds of discord and disharmony towards other religious communities while he was addressing a rally of around 600 Muslim students at 6:30 pm on December 12.

The timing of his arrest also needs to be questioned as Khan was very open about his whereabouts on social media and was at Mumbai on January 27 too. For over a month, the UP police did not arrest him.

Bidar School Headmistress Arrested
On January 30, the headmistress of the Shaheen Urdu Medium Primary School in Bidar, Karnataka and the mother of a school student was arrested on charges of sedition after students of class 4, 5, and 6 staged a play criticising of CAA. However, two weeks later, they were released on bail.

The sedition charges were filed based on a complaint by an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad(ABVP) activist. The police claimed that the play staged in the school in Karnataka’s Bidar town on January 21, was seditious and inflammatory.

For their constant interrogation of around 85 students, the police had recieved much flak. Some reports also claimed that the students were subjected to five hours of interrogation.

Activist Slapped With Sedition
Most recently, on February 20, the Bengaluru Police slapped sedition charges on Amulya Leona a 20-year-old journalism student from a city college, for chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” at an anti-CAA rally in the city.

In the event that was organised by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Hindu Muslim Sikh Isaai Federation, the student can be seen chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” slogan three times and then saying, “The difference between Pakistan zindabad and Hindustan zindabad is that Pakistan zindabad…” She was stopped from making any further statements and was dragged out of stage immediately. No one allowed her to complete her speech, where she was trying to make a larger point.

In a Facebook post that Amulya had put up in February, she said that “a nation means its people who must get their basic facilities and avail their fundamental rights” and that one “does not become a part of another nation by shouting a slogan of Zindabad in favour of that nation”.

She also wrote: “Hindustan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad, Bangladesh Zindabad, Sri Lanka Zindabad, Nepal Zindabad, Afghanistan Zindabad, China Zindabad, Bhutan Zindabad, No matter which country, Zindabad to all countries.”

In 1995 the Supreme court while hearing a case of two public servants raising ‘Kalistan Zindabad’ slogans had ruled that casual raising of slogans, once or twice by two individuals alone cannot attract sedition. At that time the bench comprising of Justice AS Anand and Justice Faizan Uddin had said that two individuals raising some lonesome slogans, without anything more, did not constitute any threat to the government of India.

On similar grounds, several people, including noted personalities like Hiren Gohain, Manjit Mahanta, and Akhil Gogoi, were booked under the draconian law.

No Action On Elected Leaders
Even after three incidents of gun violence in just four days, that came closely after the hate speeches of prominent leaders – Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, Tarun Chugh, and Yogi Adityanath, no serious action was taken against them. The most that happened was the Election Commission imposing a ban of 72 hours on Thakur and 96 hours on Verma’s election campaigns for the Delhi assembly elections.

In the case of the northeast Delhi violence, tensions began with incidents of stone-pelting on Sunday, February 23, following a rally by BJP leader Kapil Mishra to oppose the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the area. No action has been taken against him either.

The BJP leaders, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, have condemned the hate speeches, but no punitive action has been taken against them.

The Logical Indian Take
Supreme Court Justice Deepak Gupta while addressing an event recently said, “Dissent is the most important right granted by the Constitution of India.” Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every Indian citizen. The Supreme Court on a number of occasions have upheld, redefined, and also expanded the limits of freedom of expression.

Suppressing dissent and engaging in whataboutery whenever being questioned is the habitual characteristic of every BJP leader especially that of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. While discussing CAA in Parliament, Amit Shah cornered Congress as he blamed Jawaharlal Nehru for the partition of India in 1947.

It seems questioning the government has become a penal offence and the critics of the administration are criminals. It must be noted that even power-drunk Indira Gandhi was brought down by a high court order. After which she had to declare emergency leading to nationwide protests from which the Bharatiya Janata Party was born. So it must be understood that one cannot be crossing the line and getting away with it always.

Courtesy The Logical Indian