28-year-old student remanded for anti-BJP slogans

Lois Sophia being escorted out of Tuticorin airport. Screengrab.

Shouting “Fascist BJP down, down”, on a flight with Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan on it and again at the Tuticorin airport, earned a 28-year-old scholar a 15-day jail stay.

 Lois Sophia, who was travelling to her hometown Tuticorin from Canada where she is pursuing research, via Chennai, was sent to 15 days’ judicial custody on Monday night, hours after Tamilisai filed a complaint with the airport police alleging that the girl could have acted “at the instance of a terror group”. Sophia, whose father is a doctor from Tuticorin, is doing research at the University of Montreal, Canada.

 “We received a complaint (from Tamilisai Soundararajan) in the afternoon and we registered an FIR as the first step. After initial questioning, necessary steps were taken,” Tuticorin district superintendent of police Murali Ramba told DH. After Sophia was booked under sections 290 (punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for) and 75 (1) (C) of the Madras City Police Act, she was produced before a Mahila Court judge, who sent her to judicial custody.

 This is the latest case of arrest for criticising politicians and the government of the day. The Tamil Nadu police have come under fire from various courts for arresting people, including during the Sterlite protests in May, without any “valid reason”.

 The incident created a political uproar with Opposition Leader M K Stalin demanding the release of Sophia. “You will have to arrest lakhs of people who raise slogans like this. I will also raise the slogan ‘Fascist BJP govt down, down’,” he said in a tweet.

 Sophia’s father Samy alleged that she was kept at the women’s police station for eight hours on the pretext of questioning. “She never said anything derogatory against Tamilisai or the BJP. She was just exercising her freedom of opinion,” he said.

 Though the police acted quite fast on Tamilisai’s complaint, Samy alleged that his complaint against BJP workers of abusing her daughter did not receive any response.

According to eye-witnesses, Sophia shouted, “Fascist BJP down, down” after spotting Tamilisai in the flight but the BJP chief seems to have ignored the comment. However, Sophia took to sloganeering at the arrival area of the Tuticorin airport, which is when the comment snowballed into a controversy.

Video clips show Tamilisai losing her cool, yelling at the girl for having behaved in a “vulgar manner”.

“Since the incident took place inside an aircraft, I did not raise my voice. But the same girl shouted similar slogans when I was waiting to collect my check-in baggage at the Tuticorin airport. Since she repeated her act and her slogans were not normal in nature, I suspect that her behaviour was instigated by some group. I suspect that she behaved in an odd manner at the instance of a terrorist group,” Tamilisai claimed.

The video, which has gone viral, shows Tamilisai arguing with the girl in a loud voice seeking to know how she can term the BJP “fascist” in a public place. Police personnel at the airport are seen asking the BJP leader not to take it seriously since the girl “does not look that matured”.

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28-year-old student remanded for anti-BJP slogans

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