Sedition charges against 15 held for celebrating dropped, as no proof found

The Madhya Pradesh police has dropped sedition charges against 15 persons, arrested in Burhanpur district for cheering Pakistan cricket team after it won the ICC Champions Trophy final against India.

Tension had gripped Mohad town, about 23 kms from the district headquarters, on Sunday night. No one in Mohad, a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Burhanpur district, is quite sure when the “celebrations”, triggered allegedly by Pakistan’s victory over India in the finals of the Champions Trophy on Sunday. No one heard the fire crackers either, or even the pro-Pakistan or anti-India slogans. Not even Subhash Laxman Koli, the complainant.

“We have dropped the sedition charge under section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code and have invoked IPC section 153 (a) instead against them for disturbing communal harmony,” Burhanpur Superintendent of Police RRS Parihar.

“It’s difficult to prove the sedition charge. Moreover, none of them has a criminal background. After initial investigation, we found that Section 153A is more appropriate that Section 124A (sedition),’’ he added.

He said the investigation revealed that their action did not amount to sedition and they also do not have any past criminal record.

“I went to the police station on Sunday night to help a neighbour who had been taken away for shouting slogans. I did not hear any slogans, though. I didn’t complain about fire crackers either. The police simply made me a witness when I went to the police station on Monday. I am ready to depose, but only in court, in front of a judge; I am scared the police will target me,”said Subhash Laxman Koli, the complainant.

“This tension has always been there but it was fine until now because Muslims did not assert themselves. Though they are in a majority here, they are mostly poor and work on the farms of Hindus. Over the last few years, a lot of outsiders have come to the village – either as teachers in madrasas or got married to girls here – and the equation has changed,’’ says Dr Pramod Patil, a non-allopathic medical practitioner.

“Yahanki kha raho hai wahan ke gun ga rahe ho (You live off this place and praise them)? Why can’t you take pride in being an Indian? The government gives you so many subsidies,’’ says Kundan, a farmer whose son is among the dozen-odd RSS activists in the village.

Hanifa Shaikh, a mother of three, says her husband Shaikh Mukaddar, a daily wager, was picked up at 1 am. “I begged them not to beat up my husband but they were unmoved. I don’t know if he had any enemies in village because he was always at work,’’ she says, adding that she tried to meet her husband at the Burhanpur court but did not succeed because a crowd that had gathered there turned against them. “They called us anti-nationals and made fun of us. I had to walk back three kilometers because they did not let us get into any vehicle.’’

Irshad says her teenager son had just finished dinner when police took him in custody. “They did not let us meet him in court. If police say some have confessed to the crime, why did they not name them? Why did they arrest innocents like my son,’’ she says of her son, a school dropout . “Police behaved as if there were communal riots and my son was an accused,’’ she says.

Sharif Hasan Tadvi, 30, is illiterate and earns Rs 150 a day working as a daily wager at Shahpur, about 15 km away. His wife Sharifa, 25, too works as a daily wager. “Police arrested him because he ran to save his children. They picked him up, saying, ‘why are you running’,’’ she says, sitting outside her modest home.

Ramiza says her elder brother Salman Turab Tadvi, in his 20s, was defecating in the open when police caught up with him. “They asked him to clean up and thrashed him immediately after,’’ she alleges.

On Monday, the police had arrested 15 persons, aged between 19 and 35, and had booked them for sedition and criminal conspiracy (IPC section 120-B).

They were arrested on Monday and the next day produced in a court which sent them to jail.