At least 66 Panjab University students booked on sedition charges for protesting fee hike
In yet another incident of misuse of India’s colonial sedition law, the alleged “misinterpretation” of the words of a complainant from the Panjab University led to the Chandigarh Police slapping sedition charges on 66 students protesting on campus on Tuesday against a steep fee hike.
Ashwani Kaul, the chief security officer, initially told the police that the students “raised slogans against the state”, when the protests turned violent. Later he clarified that by state he meant the Ministry of Human Resources Development, the UGC and the PU.
It’s a matter of contention as to how the UGC, HRD ministry or PU is synonymous with the country. The sedition law gives the state sweeping powers to arrest anyone suspected of ‘treason’, despite the Supreme Court, in several judgments, protecting the rights of the citizens to criticise their government, and laying down clear guidelines as to what constitutes sedition.
What probably prompted Kaul’s complaint were slogans of “PU murdabad”, “MHRD murdabad” and “UGC murdabad”, according to the paper.
Kaul said: “Police misinterpreted and slapped sedition charges on them. I have examined CCTV footage and video recordings of the protest and have clarified the situation to Chandigarh Police.” However Eish Singhal, SSP, Chandigarh Police, was quoted by the paper as saying that the charge will be dropped if no substantial evidence is found.