New Delhi: Policemen in Karnataka’s Bidar questioned students at Shaheen School for the fourth time on Monday about a play they preformed, which the government has decided is ‘seditious’. Two people have been arrested in the case: Fareeda, the in-charge of the school’s primary section, and Nagma, the mother of a Class 6 student.
According to The Hindu, four plainclothes policemen and two members of the Child Welfare Commission arrived at the school around 10:30 am on Monday, and began questioning the staff. Deputy Superintendent of Police Basaveshwara Hira joined them at about 12:30 pm, at which point students were also questioned.
Questioning lasted for two hours, the report says, and not all of the seven students who were questioned were in the play. Like before, they were asked who wrote the play, who helped them rehearse, who taught them the lines, etc.
“I cannot understand why the police are repeatedly subjecting the children of 9 to 12 age group to mental torture. The harassment will affect them in the long run. The police don’t understand if we tell them,” Tauseef Madikeri, CEO of Shaheen Group of Institutions, told the newspaper.
“The students are scared,” a school official told Indian Express. According to them, no other adult is being allowed into the room while children are questioned.
Students from economically weaker sections of society study at Shaheen Schools, and they are often given fee waivers and scholarships.
The police arrested Najumunissa, whose daughter is in Class 6, because another student said that she had written the play. She is a single mother, and her daughter is being looked after by her landlady because of Najumunissa’s arrest, according to the Indian Express.
As The Wire has reported before, teachers of the Shaheen Group of Institutions had decided to engage with its students and parents and help them dispel misunderstandings around the recently passed law.
Children were asked to read up on the CAA, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) and bring out their own artistic presentations on the topic before an audience on January 21.
It was one particular line from a play performed on that day that has led to the sedition charges. Najumunissa’s daughter said in the play that if someone came asking for her documents, she would hit them with a slipper.
The complainant, Nilesh Rakshala, accused school management and students’ parents for using their children “to further their agenda against Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
In the play, a clip of which is in The Wire’s possession, the children are heard mouthing some satirical lines in Hindi and speaking about the poor who would be the worst affected because of the law. One child, a class 6 student, is then heard saying, “Where will I get my papers from. If I am asked for it, I would beat the person with my slippers.”
It is noteworthy that no one utters a word against the prime minister or any individual at all. The FIR, however, claims that the child had targeted the prime minister and made use of “foul language” against him.
“I don’t understand how this is seditious,” one parents told the Indian Express. What is anti-national in 9-10-year-olds talking of the CAA?”