Sedition for Peace! The Curious Case of Amulya Leona

amulya leona

Recently, at a rally in Freedom Park, Bangalore, Amulya Leona, a young 19 year old girl  was seen shouting Pakistan Zindabad’ (Long Live Pakistan) twice and later alsoHindustan Zindabad’ (Long Live India). She was not allowed to complete her speech after the first sentence. AMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, who was also sharing the stage rushed to her and shouted, `What are you saying? You cannot say this’. Her mike was grabbed and the police men appeared on stage from nowhere and arrested her. The DCP of Bangalore (West), B Ramesh, later said that they have registered a suo moto case against Amulya under Section 124 A (Sedition), 153 A and B (promoting enmity between different groups and imputations, assertion prejudicial to national integration).

While the Chief Minister BS Yedurappa of BJP, quickly capitalised the opportunity to condemn her and also connecting her to Naxalites, Other politicians limited their observation to condemning her statement. In retaliation to her incomplete speech,  Her father Oswald Noronha  was heckled by right wing activists forcing him to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai‘. When asked if he will seek bail, Noronha says, “I will not approach lawyers for her bail.” Very few people went to study what the girl wanted to say.

On February 16, a week before this incident, Amulya had written a facebook post which her friends claim was the content of her speech. The text of the post is given below:

`Hindustan Zindabad

Pakistan Zindabad

Bangladesh Zindabaad

Srilanka Zindabad

Nepal Zindabaad

Afghanistan Zindabad

China zindabad

Bhutan zindabad

Whichever country it is – zindabad to all countries.

You teach the children that nation is it’s soil. We children are telling you – nation means it is its people. All people should get their basic facilities. All of them should be able to avail their fundamental rights. Governments should take care of the people of these countries. Zindabad to everyone who serve the people. I don’t become a part of a different nation just because I say zindabad to that nation. As per law, I am an Indian citizen. It is my duty to respect my nation and work for the people of the country. I will do that. Let us see what these RSS guys will do’.

Amulya Leona was about to speak about universal brotherhood/sisterhood. But she was not allowed to. Without studying the case every leader and media jumped into the bandwagon claiming, here is somebody who is supporting the enemy'. Now, who created theenemy’? Amulya Leona is not responsible for that. Both Pakistani leadership and the leadership in India have been responsible for the creation of such enmity' for decades. It occurs to common sense that withoutenemy’ there could be no nationalism and patriotism for a large section of people. The plea for peaceful coexistence by Amulya was forced to be stopped after her first sentence itself by none other than Owaisi. Pretension of peace with Pakistan has been a regular exercise by every Prime Minister in India so far. However, nobody took any opportunity to portray Pakistan as an enemy country. In Pakistan, all rulers did the same thing against India. It is in this context when the politics of hate was reaching a climax that people to people forums speaking about peace between India and Pakistan had emerged. There is nothing anti national about Amula’s forcefully broken speech. In another language, it was a statement for peace in south Asia. The reactions of Owaisi as well as the police need to be condemned. Is there a law in this country that no Indian citizen should hail any other country except India?

Some secular people are of the opinion that she should not have begun with Pakistan Zindabad, rather it should have been stated at the end of her speech, as a strategy. They also feel that the girl is stupid and immature. But does it justify the sedition charges on the girl? The question is not what the girl should have spoken and how she should have spoken. The question is: What is it that Amulya Leona deserves for Sedition charges and Section 154 & B? How is it that raising a slogan for long life of another country becomes against Indian interest, at a time when India is claiming that India has much better defence machinery, to the extent that Pakistan can be defeated in ten days. Then why are people so afraid of a slogan from a little girl, meant to strengthen peace and not war?

Human rights activists have defined Sedition Law as a draconian law and many campaigns have taken place for the removal of this law. Incidentally, both Gandhi and Nehru were charged with sedition. They had demanded that this law should be removed and condemned the draconian law itself. But the same law is being used in a game between crude patriotism and citizenship today.  While a person who speaks about world peace is arrested on sedition the real people who have been promoting enmity on the ground are scott free. All organisations connected with RSS, including some of the existing Ministers who spread politics of hate, are not charged with either Sedition or 153 A and B. Recently, Union Minister Giriraj recently stated that all Muslims should have been sent to Pakistan in 1947. The hate speeches by the Sangh Parivar and such Ministers never came under legal restriction. The Sangh Parivar has created a major change in the public consciousness, that even ordinary people are afraid to speak anything in favour of Pakistan. The hate speeches have generated a climate in the popular consciousness, by creating a framework for even human rights activists, on what they can say and what they can not. All political parties today are scared to talk beyond the boundaries of this artificially created popular consciousness. And the boundaries for the popular consciousness are shrinking today with all major institutions being appropriated by the Hindutva lobby. In that sense, the Hindu Rashtra has already emerged in the popular consciousness in India. The real take over may only be matter of time. Fascism has not just reached our doorstep. It has crossed the door of mainstream psyche.

Ram Sena has publicly announced an offer of Rupees Ten Lakhs for murdering Amulya.

There is no arrest of Sanjeev Maradi of Ram Sena for issuing such a statement. Such organisations who spread the politics of hate are rarely touched by those who are responsible to execute law in India. What we should be concerned is about the safety of this little girl today. Forums like Indo-Pak peace forums, women’s groups and human rights groups and secular forces in general should be taking up this issue.

Before making judgments on Amulya Leona, it is time that we make some self-critical assessments on ourselves. The writings and speeches filled with hate have been going on in both India and Pakistan for several decades. Though there have been different attempts in the past to strengthen peace between people of Pakistan and the people of India, these efforts do not seem to be adequate to counter the politics of hate. What Amulya said was only a Biblical statement: Though Shalt Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself’. Therefore, she was not strengthening any enmity, but she was promoting peace. And it is absolutelysane’ and `normal’ to speak about peace within the spirits of justice and harmony enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The cases against her must be immediately withdrawn.

In March 2017, the Hindustan Times reported that RSS had stated that Pak is our brother and government must work to improve ties. RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale shrugged off the acrimony between India and Pakistan, saying such things happenin a family between brothers and one should move on and improve relationships.’ The day after Amulya’s arrest, Sri Sri Ravishankar had stated that `Pakistan and India and all countries, we should all remember that we are all human, we are all a part of this planet, we are sons of Ishwar, and we should come together with love… Pakistan, Hindustan should move forward with friendship. Jai Hind aur Pakistan Zindabad saath saath chalein (Long live India and long live Pakistan should go hand in hand)’. Aren’t these statements anti-national and do they deserve to be booked under sedition like Amulya?

Amulya Leona has not violated Indian Constitution. Others have. The real violators are those who suppressed her freedom of expression on stage. Owaisi was seen rushing to her to prevent her from speaking and other men physically grabbed her mike to prevent her from speaking. Owaisi forgot that he was only another speaker for the event and not the chairperson of the meeting. Even if he were the chair for that day’s event, I must say such behaviour of manhandling a little girl was too crude. He should have tried to uphold the democratic traditions in a public meeting, rather than dragging the girl to male police. Anybody who saw the video would be able to understand the undemocratic behaviour of such a leader. Let us assume that this leader was scared of being branded as an anti-national, since he came from a Muslim community. But that does not justify him to forget the boundaries of democracy in any discourse. The real violators are also the police`men’ who arrested her from stage and brought her down. There was no woman police when she was getting arrested. The behaviour of the police needs to be condemned since there was a blatant violation of women’s rights on stage.

The need of the hour is to act before it is too late. Need of the hour is for women’s groups to come out and expose the anti-woman behaviour of the police and the others responsible. Need of the hour is to take the cue from Amulya and campaign for peace, so that people in Pakistan and India can live in harmony. Amulya’s safety is our responsibility. After his visit to Pakistan, Narendra Modi stated in a television programme that his visit provided a reassurance to ordinary Pakistanis that India does not mean any harm to Pakistan.

What has happened is a matter of national shame. We can only hope that sanity, wisdom and peaceful existence will prevail some time in future, when we get rid of our own fears and regulate those who create fear for their own personal and political ends. The time may come, perhaps after a lot of trouble, pain and blood shed, when the people of south Asia will be proud of each other, expressing compassion on one another rather than limiting their thoughts within prescribed artificial boundaries. Time will come !

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist and a writer



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K P Sasi

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist, writer and an activist

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