The Lakshadweep Police has booked filmmaker Ayesha Sultana for sedition and hate speech after a complaint against her was filed by the local BJP unit for her remarks regarding the COVID-19 situation in the union territory.
The filmmaker blamed COVID cases in the island on administrator Praful Patel’s decisions and remarked that the Centre had used “bio-weapon” against Lakshadweep. The administrator has been accused by protesters including Lakshadweep Parliamentarian Mohammed Faizal in the past of doing away with quarantine protocols that were a must for people to enter Lakshadweep.
During a debate on a Malayalam TV, Sultana said, “Lakshadweep had zero cases of COVID-19. Now it is reporting a daily spike of 100 cases. What the Centre has deployed is a bioweapon. I can say this clearly that the central government has deployed bioweapon.”
Ayesha Sultana defends action
Sultana took to Facebook to defend her comments. She said, “They have filed a sedition case against me but I want to reiterate that truth will win. Case was filed by a BJP worker from Lakshadweep. I will continue my fight for the land where I was born. We don’t fear anyone. My voice is going to be louder now.”
Outrage on social media
The filing of the case against Sultana resulted in an outrage on social media, with several politicians too speaking in favour of the filmmaker.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said, “In our democracy, criticism of Govt that does not involve incitement to violence is not seditious, a principle the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld & that various state police forces have more repeatedly ignored. The case should be dropped.”
The MP said, “I even introduced a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament in 2014-15 to “read down” the Sedition Law as to make the SC interpretation clear. Applying the wrong interpretation to charge Aysha Sultana is little more than harassment.”
“The sedition case will fail in the courts, since it does not meet basic standards, but she will be made to suffer till then. The process is the punishment. It is a total abuse of the process of law & unworthy of our democracy. The case against Aisha Sultana should be withdrawn,” he added.
CPI (M) leader Thomas Isaac said, “Aiysha Sultana, budding filmmaker, booked under sedition charges. Crime: Dared to describe admin policy a bio-weapon. Reason: Laccadives did not have a single case of Covid for a year until admin removed mandatory quarantine for travellers. Now Covid rages. Some sedition indeed!”
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