New Delhi: According to a report in the Indian Express, the Nasriganj police in Rohtas district, Bihar, have arrested eight individuals, including five minors, on charges of sedition. The accused were charged with dancing to a song that described “mujahids” who “threatened” India. Pointing out that a DJ was playing songs on his mobile phone, parents of the accused have said and that the controversial song was played ‘inadvertently.’ And the boys had danced to the song without realising what the lyrics meant.
The parent of a minor said he doubted if any of the boys knew as much as the meaning of mujahid. “They must have danced to the beat – the song barely played for three or four minutes,” the parent said.
A man named Chandan Thathera reportedly shot the video and gave it to a local Bajrang Dal leader, who next handed it to the police. The incident occurred on June 15 when a crowd of about 150 people took out a chand jhulus (moon procession) before Eid, said the Hindustan Times. The case was lodged on Sunday after the video was circulated on social media, and the police headquarters reportedly directed Rohtas police to take action.
According to locals, Ashish Kumar, who was hired as a DJ, played a series of qawwalis before playing the controversial song whose lyrics, roughly translated, would go as, “We are Pakistani mujahids, protectors of Earth; if you challenge us even by mistake, we will cut you up.”, the Indian Express report said.
The elder brother of one of the accused, who studies in Class VI, said, “The children were dancing in joy. Most of them realised that some objectionable and controversial song had been played only after the ruckus following police intervention.”
The report also quoted the father of another boy saying: “Sedition charges against these little boys have hurt us badly. There has never seen any communal riot in Nasriganj’s history. In this town you can still hear azaan (call of prayer from a mosque) and Ram dhun (devotional song) going on simultaneously. We are trying to hire a good lawyer and pinning all hope on judiciary.”
The sedition law in India dating back to colonial times has been used on innumerable occasions in recent times, to silence peaceful political dissent.
For instance, in 2014, a Muslim youth from Kerala was arrested and charged with sedition for not standing up during the national anthem in a movie theatre and for allegedly posting a derogatory comment about the national flag on Facebook. In the same year, 67 Kashmiri students from a private college in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, were booked for sedition after they cheered Pakistan during a cricket match India lost.
In 2011, a lecturer from Kashmir University was arrested on charges of sedition. He was charged with setting an “anti-establishment” English paper for first year BA, B.Sc and B.Com students. A question in the paper asked whether stone-pelters were the real heroes. The paper also asked students to translate an Urdu passage on Eid in curfew into English.
Not just civilians, politicians too, have not been spared from these charges. In 2011, a complainant sought to register a case of sedition against Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh for allegedly describing yoga guru Ramdev as a “fraud”. Divya Spandana of the Indian National Congress faced complaints of sedition for saying that Pakistan was “not hell”.
As recently as this May, the Chhattisgarh police charged a Bastar-based journalist, Kamal Shukla, with sedition for sharing a cartoon on Facebook that allegedly made derogatory references to the judiciary and the government.