A case of sedition has been registered against Amnesty International India in Bangalore after it organized an event to highlight alleged human rights violations in Kashmir. Charges under the very ambiguous Section 124-A of the IPC have rarely been upheld in courts, yet our police and governments find it convenient to invoke the law when they don’t like what someone says. Amnesty is not an Indian organization, and is often not liked in most countries it operates in because by its very character it seeks to bring to light ugly realities that governments would rather leave under wraps. While its actions in the August 13 event can only be understood after an investigation, the point of concern is that the only evidence the police had before lodging the case was a complaint from the ABVP. Be it Hyderabad, JNU or IIT-Madras, FIRs based on ABVP complaints are becoming an unhappy pattern.
Amnesty has denied its employees did anything more than discuss the human rights issue. Slogans were raised at the venue by some Kashmiri participants. According to a Supreme Court clarification, Section 124-A can be invoked only if there is a direct incitement to violence. But then that is a debate that was done to death after the JNU fracas. We as a country cannot afford to seem so weak as to feel threatened by a few ‘victim families’ raising some slogans, that too at a program of which the police had intimation in advance. It is the Congress in power in Karnataka, but the pressure from ultra-nationalism of the BJP is apparently beginning to weaken its confidence.
Heavy-handed suppression of debate on Kashmir will only convey to the world we have something to hide, a message we do not want to send. If there is a situation in Kashmir that is being instigated by people inimical to our national interest, the government needs to expose them with evidence, and in parallel take all lawful and justifiable measures to quell the current uprising. More than 65 protesters have died in Kashmir thus far. Blocking a public discussion is not the answer. (Tribune, India)