Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sultana has been named in a case of sedition and hate speech for her comments criticizing Administrator Praful Khoda Patel’s Covid handling and calling him a “bio-weapon” sent by the Centre. The FIR was filed on the complaint of the state BJP chief.
Aisha Sultana had, during a news debate on a regional channel, blamed Covid cases in the island on Praful Patel’s decisions and remarked that the Centre had used a “bio-weapon” against Lakshadweep.
“Lakshadweep had zero cases of COVID-19. Now it is reporting a daily spike of 100 cases. What the Centre has deployed is a bioweapon. I can say this clearly that the central government has deployed bioweapon,” she had said on a Malayalam TV debate earlier this week.
The comment had BJP workers protesting on the streets; C Abdul Khader Haji, the BJP’s Lakshadweep chief, complained to the police accusing her of “anti-national” comments “tarnishing the patriotic image of the central government”.
Aisha Sultana has been strongly criticising the Administrator’s controversial decisions, which have spurred protests and anger in the islands.
The filmmaker defended her comments on Facebook. “They have filed a sedition case against me but I want to reiterate that truth will win. Case was filed by a BJP worker from Lakshadweep. I will continue my fight for the land where I was born. We don’t fear anyone. My voice is going to be louder now,” she wrote.
The case against her has drawn strong reactions on social media.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor alleged harassment through the misuse of the word “sedition”.
1/3 In our democracy, criticism of Govt that does not involve incitement to violence is not seditious, a principle the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld & that various state police forces have more repeatedly ignored. The case should be dropped. https://t.co/iQp7uTs3VQ
– Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) June 11, 2021
Praful Patel, who was appointed Lakshadweep Administrator in December, has been facing protests over a series of decisions that he insists will help develop Lakshadweep as a major tourist draw to match the Maldives.
Among the changes he plans are a new detention law that gives the administration sweeping powers to detain anyone for up to a year, another law that seeks to grant arbitrary powers to the administration to acquire land and a proposed ban on the killing of cattle. Lakshadweep’s residents, who are mostly Muslim, feel the rules target their food habits.
On Monday, residents protested in their homes, on beaches and even underwater with placards. Many MPs, bureaucrats and prominent voices have spoken up against the changes. The Kerala assembly has passed a unanimous resolution seeking the recall of the administrator.