A school in Bidar, at the northern tip of Karnataka, has been in the news lately after a sedition case was slapped on its management for an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act skit during whose enactment a class five student allegedly brandished a slipper, as though to beat anyone who asked her for documents. School headmistress Fareeda Begum and Najamunnisa, the girl’s mother, were arrested on charges of sedition and provoking breach of peace.
The police inquiry—local reports say policemen have so far made at least four visits to the school run by Shaheen Education Society to question students and staff—has drawn criticism from several quarters. The sedition case was taken up on a complaint by a local activist, who took offence to a video of the school’s annual day skit that was being shared on Facebook. The complaint states that the schoolchildren in the play were heard saying “Muslims would have to leave the country if these laws came into force” and that one of the characters had waved a “slipper at the PM” during its enactment.
Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who visited the two women in judicial custody, pointed out that Najamunnisa was a single parent and that her daughter was being cared for by the landlord since the arrest. The mother was arrested because she “tutored” her child to make the gesture and provided her the slipper, police allege. The charge against the headmistress is that she was aware of the contents of the play for which rehearsals had been held for weeks. The police say they examined about 50 people. Some of the other school officials, who have been accused, have moved for anticipatory bail.
“It’s clear the police are kowtowing to the powers-that-be,” Bidar-based writer Gandharva Sena says. “Just do a Google search on protests where photos of politicians, including PM Modi, are garlanded with slippers and see how many results pop-up. Why doesn’t that amount to insulting them? They don’t slap sedition cases on those protestors.”
In Karnataka, this has been the second case of sedition that’s made news, and controversy. A few weeks ago, an alumna of the University of Mysore had been booked for holding up a ‘Free Kashmir’ placard at a demonstration on the campus to protest the violence at JNU. The Mysore Bar Association decided not to represent the woman, Nalini B, prompting scores of advocates from neighbouring districts to turn up to argue on her behalf.
By Ajay Sukumaran in Bangalore