31 January, 2021
The NCHRO condemns the slapping of various charges including sedition on journalists and others following the events of January 26 in Delhi
In the midst of state repression on farmers agitating at the borders in Delhi, the Uttar Pradesh police and Madhya Pradesh police have once again shown their draconian faces. On January 28, 2021, the UP and MP police charged several journalists and other politicians with severe laws, including sedition, i.e., 124(a). The charges came after the events that unfolded on January 26, 2021, where there was a confrontation between the farmers and the police present at the area. The farmers were to march from the borders inside Delhi on Republic Day, when the confrontation happened.
One farmer from Uttarakhand died on the day in Delhi not far from the headquarters of the Delhi police.
Following this, the people who have been booked under sedition have been accused of spreading misinformation about the death of the said farmer when the police firing was happening. The people who have been booked are Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, India Today journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande, Qaumi Awaz editor Zafar Agha, The Caravan magazine’s editor and founder Paresh Nath, The Caravan editor Anant Nath and its executive editor Vinod K. Jose, and one other unnamed individual. They have all been accused of “instigating violence” by spreading misinformation, and as a result have been charged with sedition, along with other charges.
The other charges include the following sections of the IPC: 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 298 (uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 502 (sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter), 124A (sedition), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and section 66 of the Information Technology Act (66 computer-related offences).
All of the people charged had made a tweet about a protestor dying at ITO crossing on January 26, 2021. The protestor had died in an accident, it seems, while the allegations are that the people booked had insinuated that he had died as a result of police firing.
The tweets actually merely report on the possibilities, and had not made any claims. Besides, the law of sedition is a draconian act used to stifle dissent. The charges on the said people are all an attempt to intimidate people into silence, and shut down any dissenting narrative. At a time when most of the media is dancing to the tune of the Central government, even the slightest deviation from their narrative attracts such a repression.
The National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations finds this a shameful incident and condemns the intimidating tactics of the UP and MP police. We believe that there should be space for all voices. We also state hereby once again that we stand with the farmers in their demands to revoke the anti-farms Acts, which are made to hand undue power in the hands of private entities.