Amnesty International India, a prominent human rights advocacy group, has been booked by the Indian police for the alleged participation of some of its members in seditious activities at an event organised recently by the group in Bangalore (capital of the Indian South West state of Karnataka).
A complaint was filed by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists against Amnesty International’s Indian division after the group organized an event titled “Broken Families” on Saturday to discuss the rapes, extra judicial killings and other abuses of rights that Indian security forces reportedly perpetuate in Kashmir. This event took place in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka in South India, a city which is also dubbed as the Silicon Valley of India.
ABVP, the group that lodged the complaint against Amnesty International India, is a student body affiliated with the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which is an ideological mentor of India’s current ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
ABVP also held a protest against the event that they deemed “anti-national”. The event had turned chaotic after there was a clash of opinion regarding the claims of a speaker regarding the disciplined nature of the Indian Armed Forces. Slogans that demanded “azadi” (freedom) for Kashmir were also allegedly raised leading to charges of sedition, rioting, promotion of enmity between groups and acting against maintenance of harmony under various sections of the Indian Penal Code as stated in the First Information Report (FIR) lodged against Amnesty International’s Indian arm. A FIR is a written document issued in India by police organizations, after receiving information about the commission of a cognizable offence.
Charge of Sedition
The laws pertaining to sedition and the discourse around the term “anti-national” in India has been once again brought to attention with this incident. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code deals with sedition and the same was used by the British in colonial India to charge Mahatma Gandhi in 1922 .
Countries such as Germany and Canada are among the few others who have laws dealing with sedition and other similar concepts pertaining to disruption of peace and incitement of hatred. The “sedition law” in Germany actually deals with incitement of hatred against particular religion or race. In Canada, laws pertaining to hate crime are different from those dealing with sedition and the use of such laws is supposedly rare.
Some activists have termed the police investigation post the “Broken Families” event as an attempt to curb freedom of expression. Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India, said, “Merely organizing an event to defend constitutional values is now being branded ‘anti-India’ and criminalized…The police were invited and present at the event. The filing of a complaint against us now and the registration of a case of sedition, shows a lack of belief in fundamental rights and freedoms in India.”
A formal investigation had been launched and it is to be seen whether the organisers can be held under the relevant laws.