Min­is­ter wades into Amnesty free speech row

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

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