Amnesty International India faces sedition charge over Kashmir debate

Amnesty International India has been accused of sedition and other serious charges in a complaint filed with the police after anti-India slogans were shouted at an event it organized to discuss Kashmir, police said Tuesday.

An official at the JC Nagar police station in the information technology hub of Bangalore confirmed that a first information report had been filed at the station by a group of students on Monday against Amnesty for several offences including sedition, promoting enmity between different groups, rioting and unlawful assembly.

Amnesty International's India chapter said it had held a debate in Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru, on Saturday as part of a campaign to seek justice for human rights violations in Kashmir.

The Bangalore Police had been informed of the event well in advance. Towards the end of the event some people had raised slogans relating to freedom.

"Merely organizing an event to defend constitutional values is now being branded 'anti-India' and criminalized," said Aakar Patel, who heads Amnesty International India.

"The police were invited and present at the event. The filing of a complaint against us now, and the registration of a case of sedition, shows a lack of belief in fundamental rights and freedoms in India."

Amnesty International India spokeswoman Himanshi Matta said the organization had not yet received a notice from the police or a copy of the complaint.

Students from the right-wing Hindu Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had been staging protests in front of the Amnesty office in Bangalore and the police had posted men to provide security, Matta said. The ABVP is the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"If a case has been registered by the police, there will be an investigation, videos and tapes will be looked at and the law will take its own course," Karanataka state home minister G Parameshwara said. Bangalore is capital of Karnataka state.

In the wake of a series of arrests at an university in Delhi earlier this year for a similar Kashmir event and anti-India slogan-shouting, calls have grown for the repeal of the colonial-era sedition law, which critics say is misused to persecute political opponents. Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines sedition as any act or attempt to "bring into hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection towards the government." It can fetch maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

India-administered Kashmir has long been a conflict zone with a deadly secessionist militant movement. Security forces have been accused of rights violations in the efforts to tackle militancy. Four civilians were killed on Tuesday as paramilitary troops fired on protesters in Berau town of Badgam district in Kashmir in the latest incident of violence. More than 60 people have died so far in protests sparked by the killing of militant leader Burhan Wani on July 8.

Last update: Tue, 16/08/2016 - 17:08
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