Amnesty India chief refutes allegations of sedition

Amnesty India chief refutes allegations of sedition

Aakar Patel says inciting violence can only invite such serious charge

Amnesty India chief refutes allegations of sedition

Amnesty International India is facing the heat after pro-Azadi slogans were raised at an event in Bengaluru recently. Amnesty’s executive director Aakar Patel responded to queries raised by Shemin Joy of DH.

Excerpts:

How do you react to the complaint against the event?

The allegations are without any substance, and we are hopeful that the charges will be dropped. Amnesty International India staff did not raise any slogans or sing any songs, as claimed in the complaint.

The events was for the families of victims of human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir to narrate their personal stories of loss. These are issues that have regularly been discussed in the media. They have been written about at length by MPs, politicians, judges and members of the civil society.

How do you see slapping of sedition charges?

The police decide the sections of law which are mentioned in an FIR, and it is surprising that they chose to use provisions such as Section 124A (sedition) when the Supreme Court has ruled that for speech to amount to sedition, it must involve incitement to violence.

The police were present all through the event. The registration of a case of sedition shows a lack of belief in fundamental rights and freedoms in India.

Reports suggest that the home ministry would insist on Amnesty registering itself under FCRA. What are your objections to it?

We have not received any notice. When we do, we shall respond adequately.

Do you think the government is using the incident to tighten the screw on Amnesty? Is it part of a larger design to target NGOs?

Various state governments have used the sedition law to clamp down on activists who are critical of government policies. Lately, we have witnessed a pattern of using the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to suppress dissent and harass groups critical of government view and action. The government needs to respect the rights of these individuals and organisations to freedom of expression and association.  

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