Congress' Karnataka unit chief Digvijaya Singh on Wednesday said the sedition charges filed against Amnesty International for an event it had held on the Kashmir crisis are baseless. Singh said, "It is obligatory on the part of the police to file an FIR if there is a complaint. Even if you want to file an FIR against the PM, you can do that. But then the preliminary inquiry is held. In this case, there is no question of any sedition charge."
Singh reportedly reached out to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to convey the party's stand on the issue after receiving a message from party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, The Indian Express reported. Gandhi, however, has not publicly addressed the matter yet.
Former law minister and Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said, “Amnesty is concerned with human rights and they have the right to hear the grievances of the people. That itself and mere sloganeering will not amount to sedition." He said the law should not be used so recklessly" just because the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, wants it.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a youth organisation linked to the Bharatiya Janata Party, had filed the original complaint, saying the Bengaluru event was "anti-national". An First Information Report was filed on August 15. The organisation has since denied the charges.
Aakar Patel, head of the organisation's India division, said the central government needs to uphold the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. In an email interview to Hindustan Times, Patel said the space for civil society and dissent in India is shrinking. He said the sedition law was being misused by several state governments to silence activists who are critical of government policies.
On Wednesday, reports emerged suggesting that the organisation has postponed its events scheduled this month in view of the controversy. Employees of the organisation were reportedly asked from home, though they said dismissed rumours that the office has been shut down. Amnesty has not issued a statement on this.