The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy organization dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has condemned the filing of a case of sedition against Amnesty International India over claims that slogans favoring Kashmiri independence were raised at an event organized by the reputed human rights organization in Bengaluru last Monday.
“The fact that the Bengaluru Police has registered the case at the behest of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is indicative of the political and ideological motivations behind it,” said Mr. Umar Malick, President of IAMC. “Clearly, the aim is to silence views and opinions contrary to the shrill nationalist construct of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” said Mr. Malick.
IAMC has expressed solidarity with Amnesty and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the case. Not only does the police action violate India’s constitutional promise of free speech, it is significant to note that Amnesty’s event had been called to discuss the issue of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, a topic by no means anti-national or seditious. The violation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir over several decades, both by State and non-State actors, is a matter of fact and has been acknowledged even by the Indian judiciary, from time to time. The international community too has been unsparing in its criticism of such violations.
It may be recalled that last March the ABVP had leveled a similar allegation of “azadi” slogans being raised at a public event in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University that had led to the arrests of JNU students, including its current students’ union president. That illiberal, anti-democratic campaign by the ABVP too was widely condemned and eventually exposed as nothing more than a brute attempt by show of strength to forestall any discussion of the state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir.
The police action against Amnesty is completely characteristic of the regressive attitude of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government which has, since taking power in May 2014, carried out a witch-hunt and vendetta against hundreds of national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Many of these have long worked in India across various social sectors, especially in human rights and civil liberties.