The Tamil Nadu police on Monday arrested a student from Thoothukudi after she allegedly shouted slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party government on a flight. The police action was based on a complaint by Tamil Nadu BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan.
Sofia Lois has been remanded in judicial custody. The police have charged her with sections pertaining to public nuisance, public mischief, and causing armed forces to mutiny under the Indian Penal Code, the Tamil Nadu Police Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Her advocate Athisaya Kumar told Scroll.in that she was detained for nearly nine hours in the police station. “The police are yet to give us a copy of the first information report,” Kumar said. “We do not know whether there are any other bailable or non-bailable cases.”
Soundararajan claimed that Lois, who is studying at the University of Montreal in Canada, had shouted “BJP’s Fascist government down down” on the flight. She was reportedly sitting behind the BJP leader and shouted the slogan on seeing her. “Is that freedom of speech?” the BJP leader asked, according to The News Minute. Soundararajan filed a complaint at the Pudukottai police station in Thoothukudi. The police detained Lois at the Thoothukudi airport and then registered a case against her.
Soundararajan met reporters at the airport and claimed that Lois may be a member of some terrorist group. “She did not look like a normal person,” the state BJP chief claimed. “I am not scared or worried because of her. The other passengers inside the flight should not be affected by her, that is why I responded. In a public place people can shout, but nobody has the right to shout inside an aircraft.”
Athisaya Kumar told The News Minute that Soundararajan could have handled the matter better. “Instead of shaming Lois in public, couldn’t she have just spoken to her?” Kumar asked. “It’s so common to do this in Canada. We don’t have that freedom in India. She also instigated her cadres who have been even more vulgar.”
Kumar said that Lois’ father has filed a complaint with the police against BJP cadres who abused the student.
Henri Tiphagne of human rights NGO People’s Watch questioned why the Thoothukudi police were not registering a counter case on Lois’s father’s complaint. He told Scroll.in that the magistrate did not grant bail to Sofia Lois stating that she cannot accept bail petitions after 8 pm. However, she allowed the police to produce the student before her and remanded her in judicial custody at 8 pm. The magistrate is under tremendous pressure, Tiphagne alleged.