OPINION

The colonial-era law is widely misused to serve partisan political ends

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Under the current government at the centre, every liberal public educational institute is under attack. From last four years, we have seen the physical as well as the policy level attacks on the educational institutions and be it the institutional murder of Rohit Vemula in HCU, the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmad from JNU campus or now the violence on AMU students from these right-wing hooligans, India is becoming more and more repressive.

There have been constant attempts from what has come to be known as ‘godi media’ to malign the picture of minority institutes like AMU and Jamia. The attack and media trial on AMU is to communalize the atmosphere and spread the agenda of hatred and polarize the situation to suit the vote bank politics.

14 Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students, including current and former office-bearers of the student’s union, were booked on sedition charges, after Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s (BJYM) Aligarh unit president, Mukesh Lodhi, had alleged that slogans such as ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and ‘Bharat Murdabad’ were raised on the campus on February 12. However police, on Thursday said there is ‘no prime evidence regarding sedition in this case’.

There have been continuous attempts to exclude these universities and to employ maximum efforts for creating of communal tensions. It happened last year when the elections of two Lok Sabha seats were happening in UP and now again when the parliament elections are just around the corner.

It is ironic to see the excessive use of sedition laws, a colonial law,  being imposed on the protesting students nearly everywhere in India- first on the JNU student and now the onslaught is on the AMU students. Fourteen students of Aligarh Muslim University were booked for sedition on Tuesday evening following an altercation with Republic TV crew. It is pertinent to note that some of the students who have been named in the list weren’t even present in the campus and were as far as New Delhi.

The students were charged on the basis of complaints filed by Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha district leader Mukesh Lodhi and a Republic TV correspondent.

How absurd is to suggest that in Aligarh Muslim University, the students were trying to overthrow the Indian government – which is what is implied by sedition. The sedition law is simply being used by the BJP government to prepare the ground for the upcoming general election and to target minorities.

This situation exists despite the fact that sedition law demands a tremendous amount of dossier as well as serious complaints to apply in the first place. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that only “incitement to imminent lawless action” could be criminalised. This means convictions for sedition are few and far too serious. From 2014 to 2016, out of the 112 cases of sedition filed across India, only two led to convictions, clearly indicating that the law is being used to serve political ends.

Still, the governments keep using the law. In Assam, a state facing turmoil, as many as 251 sedition cases have been filed by the BJP government since 2016.

Aligarh is yet another reminder- the colonial-era sedition law has no place in a democratic country such as India and yet the longer it stays on in vogue, the more it will be misused by politicians for personal gains.

The writer is pursuing Bsc Hons in Nursing. (tawfeeqirshad@gmail.com)

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