At least three dozen, including three minors, were booked in three states over similar allegations
BIKANER/ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Five people were slapped with sedition charges in Rajasthan on Wednesday for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in the Champions Trophy final in London, police said.
The latest arrests came a day after 15 people were charged with sedition in Madhya Pradesh for allegedly shouting slogans and lighting firecrackers to celebrate Pakistan’s victory.
A person convicted for sedition — a law introduced by the British — can be jailed for life.
Critics accuse the BJP-led government at the Centre of allegedly misusing the harsh law to target anyone suspected of showing dissent.
Muslims organisations say the community is often targeted on trumped-up charges that doubt their patriotism.
Police said the five people of Bikaner were first arrested on lesser charges after residents of the Subhashpura area accused a group of Muslims youth of beating drums and shouting “Pakistan zindabad” slogans to celebrate the neighbouring country’s shock victory on Sunday. They were arrested and remanded in judicial custody.
However, the right-wing Hindu Jagran Manch and other organisations submitted memoranda to the district collector and superintendent of police, demanding stringent action against the accused.
Station house in-charge of sadar police station Laxmansingh Rathor told HT a new case was registered on Wednesday under different laws including 124A (sedition).
In Kerala’s northern district of Kasaragod, 23 people were booked on Wednesday for allegedly shouting slogans and celebrating Pakistan’s victory.
A BJP leader approached the police with photos that purportedly depicted the celebrations being held by the accused. Police said preliminary investigations confirmed slogan shouting.
A senior police officer said the youngsters were booked for different charges including unlawful assembly, rioting and provocation.
The state unit of the BJP has demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The communally volatile north Kerala district hit the headlines after the disappearance of 21 youth who reportedly joined the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Four of the 21 have been killed in fighting so far.
Earlier on Tuesday, three minor Muslim boys were held for allegedly shouting pro-Pakistan slogans in Uttarakhand’s Mussorie. They were produced in a juvenile court and were sent to correctional centre, sub-inspector Rajiv Routhen said.
Cricket matches between India and arch-rival Pakistan often inflame passions in both countries where the sport has millions of followers.
Indian captain Virat Kohli and some other players were criticised by a section of fans for their post-match camaraderie with the Pakistani players. Others, however, praised Kohli for his sportsmanship after he praised the winning team. FANS MUST BE FREED Meanwhile, Amnesty International said on Wednesday that all the fans “should be released immediately”
These arrests are patently absurd, and the men should be released immediately,” said Amnesty International’s India programme director, Asmita Basu.
“Even if the arrested men had supported Pakistan, as the police claim, that is not a crime. Supporting a sporting team is a matter of individual choice, and arresting someone for cheering a rival team clearly violates their right to freedom of expression,” she added.
“These cases show just why the sedition law should be immediately repealed. This law is excessively broad and vague and makes it easy to silence people who are legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression. Nobody should have to go to prison because they are accused of causing offense. The sedition law has no place in a rights-respecting society,” she said.