The Dalit activists have said that the 15 accused are those who had a brief meeting with the Haryana chief minister to demand a fair probe into inter-caste clashes.
Fifteen Dalit activists have been charged with sedition by the Haryana police after they staged a protested demanding the release of four Dalits who were arrested for a murder during inter-caste clashes Paterhadi village, Ambala, three months ago. According to a report in the Indian Express, police have alleged that the activists used “provocative speeches against the government” at a protest. The activists, however, have alleged that the names on the sedition FIR include those people who went to meet chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on April 24 and demand a “fair investigation” into the incident.
A Rajput man was murdered in March, the police told Indian Express. After the clashes that led to the murder, human rights organisations and Dalit activists held a sit-in in Karnal between April 21 and 26 to demand an investigation into those responsible for the tensions. During the protest, some of the activists met briefly with Khattar in Karnal – and only two days later, the same 15 people had been charged with sedition, the activists allege. “It was a meeting of a few minutes while the chief minister was on a visit to Karnal and was walking towards his vehicle. Two days later, all those who had met the chief minister were included as accused in the FIR,” one of the organisers of the protest told Indian Express. Charges in the FIR include sedition, rioting and unlawful assembly, according to the station house officer, Karnal Civil Lines.
Despite the six weeks passing since the FIR was filed, the police has refused to make it public. No arrest has been made yet. On Wednesday (June 14), a group of lawyers from the People’s Union of Civil Liberties met senior police officials in Karnal but were denied copies of the FIR on the grounds of “national security”, they told Indian Express. “The FIR is not yet in the public domain and the police department refused to share it with the delegation, stating that team has no right to receive a copy,” said advocate Ankit Grewal, who was a part of the delegation.
Police sources told Indian Express that the names in the FIR included the “main faces” of the sit-in protest held at Karnal’s Karan Park, which saw close to 400 people attending. “The struggle was against a wrong that was committed, and the sedition charge is an attempt to suppress it. The police action has declared that it is now illegal to gather people for a protest. The leadership has been the focus of police action as they want to suppress the protest,” Monika, a post-graduate student of mass communication in Kurukshetra University and an accused in the FIR, told Indian Express.