KOCHI: The decision of the Lakshadweep police to slap sedition charges on filmmaker Aisha Sulthana for alleging the use of bioweapons on the residents of Lakshadweep during a media discussion has triggered an uproar.
The Kavaratti police registered a case under sections 124 A and 153 B of IPC against Aisha on Thursday based on a complaint filed by BJP Lakshadweep state president C Abdul Khader Haji.
As a film professional, Aisha has been in the forefront of the campaign against the reforms introduced by the Lakshadweep administration which includes a ban on beef and beef products. Activists in Lakshadweep have extended support to Aisha Sulthana after news spread about the sedition case against her.
In his complaint, Abdul Khader said that Aisha Sulthana while participating in a media discussion on June 7 has made a serious allegation that the Union government has used a biological weapon against the people of Lakshadweep while referring to the spread of Covid on the island.
“The state BJP unit strongly protests against the anti-national act, which has tarnished the patriotic image of the Union government and people of Lakshadweep. We strongly plead that proper action may be taken against Aisha Sulthana,” said Abdul Khader in the complaint lodged with district collector S Askar Ali, who forwarded the case to the senior superintendent of police.
Reacting to the slapping of sedition charges, Aisha Sulthana said that she will raise her voice louder for her motherland.
"They have booked an FIR evoking sedition charges. But the truth will win. The BJP leader who lodged the complaint is a native of Lakshadweep and he has betrayed his motherland. I will continue fighting for Lakshadweep and people who betrayed their motherland will be isolated. To my fellowmen: The sea protect you and you protect the sea. The one feeling the betrayers have and we don't have is
fear. You cannot subdue me. My voice will rise louder, she said in a Facebook post.
Vishnu BG, an advocate and Kerala state secretary of Yuva Morcha, who was one of the panelists in the media discussion said he had repeatedly asked Aisha to withdraw the comment when she said the Centre has used a bioweapon on the residents of Lakshadweep. “The allegation that the government has used a bioweapon against its own people is serious. I asked her what proof she has to raise the allegation but she did not heed my demand. The Yuva Morcha has ledged complaints at various police stations across the state but the police have not registered the case. The Lakshadweep police have booked a case based on a complaint by the island unit of the BJP,” he said.
The Supreme Court has clearly said while quashing the FIR against journalist Vinod Dua that sedition charges cannot be slapped on a citizen for criticism of public measures or comments on government action. The public has the right to criticise the government. The apex court has repeatedly said that freedom of speech and the right to information is the basic characteristics of our constitution. The case against Aisha Sulthana is a misuse of section 124 A of the IPC," said former director-general of prosecution Adv T Asaf Ali.
Activist and former leader of the Naxalite movement K Venu said the use of the term bioweapon cannot attract sedition charges. “Aisha has said that she used the term while referring to the oppressive ways of Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel. This is only a criticism and cannot attract sedition charges,” he said.