Minister wades into Amnesty free speech row
A SENIOR Indian minister appeared to support police in a row over free speech that saw Amnesty International slapped with sedition charges for an event about the disputed Kashmir region.
Police in the southern city of Bangalore filed the charges last week following complaints that slogans on independence for the troubled region had been chanted at the event organised by the rights group.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley compared the freedom slogans with those at another event earlier this year at a prestigious university in New Delhi that saw a student leader arrested on sedition charges.
“During an event in Bangalore, there were slogans for freedom [from India] ... It was organised by a group that receives a lot of funding from abroad,” Mr Jaitley said at a rally in the Jammu part of the Himalayan state without directly naming Amnesty.
“In Delhi, there were slogans calling for destruction of the country ... Raising slogans that advocate breaking the nation into pieces cannot be seen as freedom of speech and expression.”
Mr Jaitley was referring to the rally in February at the university in which slogans were chanted that led to the student’s arrest, sparking a major row over freedom of expression in India.
Sedition carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, although convictions are rare.
In the latest case, Amnesty denied its staff made any such comments on independence for Kashmir. It said the charges showed a lack of “fundamental rights and freedoms in India”.
Amnesty said the event was on human rights violations in Indianadministered Kashmir. –