Sedition for up, Jammu!

Pak Cricket Cheering

By Insaf

It’s no hurray for right to freedom of speech and expression in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu. The administration of the largest State and UT respectively, has queered the pitch and slapped the sedition law or arrested those who raised pro-Pak slogans or celebrated Pakistan’s victory over India in the World Cup T20. Worse, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday last reiterated the warning that those celebrating neighbour’s victory will face sedition charges. This after three engineering students from Kashmir were arrested at Agra’sRaja Balwant Singh Engineering Technical College, for ‘raising anti-national slogans’and sending WhatsApp messages “against the country”following Pak’s big win. The students, ironicallyrecipients of PM’s Special Scholarship Scheme for J&K students, are among seven others across five districtscharged under sedition law. Predictably, the FIRs were registered on complaints by members of BJP and Hindu Jagran Manch. In Jammu’s Rajouri district, services of an OT technician were terminated after putting up her WhatsApp status celebrating Pak team’s victory, saying her action was “disloyalty towards nation.’’In Samba district, police detained 8 persons for same alleged‘crime.’ Sadly, nation’s secular fabric continues to be blemished. Unlike cricket, there shall be no ‘last over’ in the sinister hatred games our polity plays!

Elusive Opposition Unity
Opposition unity is a distant dream with both TMC and Congress refraining from sparring. Far from strengthening it, distrust comes out in the open yet again between the big two. On Tuesday last, both trained their guns against each other: The TMC charged the grand old party of ‘showing no interest’ in strengthening the move to take on the BJP and it “can’t wait for an indefinite period” for it to act. The Congress hit back, asking the TMC to ‘introspect if it was trying to carve a niche for itself in Goa, or was strengthening the BJP’. This after both Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi announced their visits to the State in poll mode. Clearly, both are not on the same page. The Congress is peeved with Mamata for taking away its former chief minister Falerio and contesting independently in the State. While it agrees every party has right to fight polls, it said ‘elections aren’t tourism where you fight one election and then you go away and reappear after five years…they need to understand what are they fighting, who are they fighting and what are they fighting for…” Guess, TMC knows what’s its doing. Since its major victory in Assembly polls, it has been pitching for Mamata —the only leader who can defeat Modi-Shah team. It thus sought ‘like-minded parties’ to join to take on BJP, but Congress is unwilling to play ball. A ‘common plan’ as desired by Didi is a long way off. How TMC fares in Goa, UP, Tripura shall give an inkling on the elusive unity.

Communal Violence
Communal violence raises its ugly head in Tripura this week. Shops and houses were vandalised and even a mosque not spared in its northern Panisagar sub-division, during a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) rally on Tuesday last. Though the rally was organised against the communal violence across bordering Bangladesh, flashes of hostility against the minority community in this north-eastern State was apparent. While the police claim the mosque burning going viral on social media was fake and not in the State, the damage had been done. The situation became worse and continues to remain tense. The ruling BJP is in denial mode and says: VHP ‘is a social organisation’, took permission for the rally…there was ‘a political conspiracy behind the incident to malign the name of the government’ and to disrupt peace and tranquillity…” However, in a video showing the vandalism, people could be heard chanting “Tripura me Mullagirinahichalega, nahichalega” and “Oh Mohammad tera baap, Hare Krishna Hare Ram”. The Opposition has demanded a probe and arrest of culprits. A case is registered following complaints from the minority community ‘against unknown VHP workers,’ and the police says ‘heavy security is deployed in all sensitive areas in vicinity to avoid further tension’. Be that as it may, the question is whether the larger issue of the sense of fear growing among a section of the minority community is to be addressed?

UAPA Misuse
Three cheers to the Supreme Court. Two Kerala students who were languishing in jail for past 11 months under UAPA for alleged Maoist links,on basis of ‘objectionable printed/written materials seized from them which include violent exhortations for civil war, in tune with Maoist ideology,’ were granted bail on Thursday last. The two students Fasal and Shuaib, also branch committee membersof CPI(Maoist), were arrested on November 2, 2019 by the NIA from Kozhikode. Later the party expelled them. The two-judge bench was firm that mere association with a terrorist organisation is not sufficient to attract the Act.Given the ‘formative young age’, it said the accused ‘might have been fascinated by what is propagated by CPI(M). Therefore, the possession of the material’. The photographs showing the accusedparticipated in a protest organised by an outfit allegedly linked with CPI(M) was also questioned. “Prima facie there’s no material in the charge sheet to project active participation.’Mere association with a terrorist organisation is not sufficient to attract Section 38 (membership of a terrorist outfit) and mere support given to a terrorist organisation is not sufficient to attract Section 39 (support to a terrorist outfit). Both have to be with intention of furthering activities of a terrorist organisation,” is a lesson the NIA got, which would do well to thoroughly read the 46-page-judgement and mend its way by not blatantly misusing the UAPA provisions.

Telangana ‘Ganja Free’
Is Telangana going overboard in its penchant to crack down on drug peddling? The Police, under instructions from Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao last week has been working with prohibition and excise department to make this southern State ‘free of ganja and other drugs’.However, videos are going viral showing random checking of vehicles, police going through mobile phones of commoners and there appears to be a sense of harassment. Is such action asks activists permissible under any law i.e. stopping and checking people’s mobile phones, chats and pockets, impacting the right to privacy? The police denies all, saying there have been no complaints over these checks, or any misbehaviour or manhandling and there is no intrusion if phones are voluntarily given for showing e-docs of car registration when asked. So far, it says 36 FIRs have been filed, 50 persons found in possession of ganja and 40 kg seized. Importantly, a top official is reported to have said why would anyone believe they are scanning WhatsApp chats for keywords. Wrong answer, as the NCB was doing it in the Aryan case and perhaps the high prolife case is rubbing off on the force!More to follow, is the big question.

Cows As Fees
Five cows as fees for a four-year BTech course does sound a promising concept. And so it was, in a private engineering college in Bihar’s Buxar district. However, the unique and popular experiment unfortunately failed as the college got sealed for non-repayment of a bank loan! Vidyadaan Institute of Technology and Management (VITM) set up at Ariaon village was promoted by a group of retired and serving professionals and created a stir as it offered an option of ‘cows as fee’ option: two in first year and one each in subsequent three years of the B.Tech course for those who couldn’t afford the Rs 72,000 fee per year.A promoter was quoted as saying ‘Our cow concept worked very well, it is the only engineering college between Buxar and Varanasi but now the future of 300 students, most of them from villages is uncertain!’ The bank sealed it over a loan recovery amount of Rs 5.9 crore for infrastructure development and subsequently sanctioned another Rs 10 crore loan but never gave it as the bank saw the project ‘was not coming along on expected lines.’ A pity indeed as over 200 students have graduated from VITM so far and 20 were those whose parents paid cows as fees. The dream of many a farmer’s son to become an engineer was realised but now it’s lost for even if their parents were willing to give their cows, there would be no takers! — INFA