A court in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday granted bail to a student who had been arrested the day before for allegedly shouting slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party government on a flight, ANI reported.
The 28-year-old student, Sofia Lois, was arrested in Thoothukudi based on a complaint by Tamil Nadu BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan, who was on the same flight.
The police have charged her under the Indian Penal Code sections pertaining to public nuisance, public mischief, and exhorting the armed forces to mutiny, the Tamil Nadu Police Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure. She was sent to 15-day police custody on Monday.
Soundararajan claimed that Lois, who is a student at the University of Montreal in Canada, had shouted “BJP’s Fascist government down down”. She was reportedly sitting behind the BJP leader and shouted the slogan on seeing her. Soundararajan told reporters at the airport that she suspected Lois may be a member of some terrorist group.
The police detained Lois at the Thoothukudi airport after the BJP leader filed a complaint at the Pudukottai police station in the coastal town.
The student’s father AA Samy, a retired government doctor, also filed a police complaint on Monday seeking action against Soundararajan and 10 unidentified BJP supporters for allegedly threatening them at Thoothukudi airport.
“We reached the Thoothukudi airport at 11.30 am,” Samy said in his complaint. “When we were disembarking from the plane, my daughter raised a slogan against the BJP government. However, Soundararajan did not respond to it. By the time we reached the terminal, she along with 10 BJP supporters surrounded and threatened [us] using abusive words.”
He accused the BJP workers of threatening to kill them and clicking their photographs in violation of their privacy. “This has caused us fear and mental agony,” he alleged.
Tamilisai Soundararajan defends action
Soundararajan on Tuesday defended her action of filing a police complaint against the student and claimed that she was also allowed to expect privacy on a flight. She also rubbished AA Samy’s claims that her party workers threatened the family and said she had calmed them down and decided to filed a police complaint instead.
“My workers were all furious, I stopped them and went to write a complaint,” the BJP leader told The News Minute. “The police official said ‘illa madam, ponga ponga’ [no madam, please go] that came out in TV like I was advancing towards her. It is not like that.”
She added: “I am a well-educated person, I am also a female politician. When she [Lois] has some rights, I also have privacy and I also have some rights. So when I travel, I should also have privacy right. So she shouldn’t have shouted like that. What I did was correct.”
She also claimed that while freedom of speech was fine, the student should not have “talk[ed] like that “ on the flight. Freedom of Speech can be there,” Soundararajan said. “If you and I speak outside, it is fine. But inside an aircraft, in front of passengers she shouldn’t talk like that, right? Again she shouted saying that she has freedom of speech.”
She also claimed that it was a “pre-planned attack” since Lois reportedly tweeted about raising slogans before the flight took off. However, Scroll.in could not verify the claim as the twitter account has since been deleted.
Stalin, Kamal Haasan criticise BJP
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President and Tamil Nadu Opposition leader MK Stalin tweeted in defense of Lois hours after she was arrested and demanded that she be immediately released.
“The anti-democratic actions of the Tamil Nadu government that is against the right to free speech are highly condemnable,” Stalin said. “If you would arrest everyone who says that, how many lakhs of people would you imprison? I will also say it. ‘BJP’s fascist government down, down’.”
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan said politicians should be arrested if it was a crime to raise slogans in public.
Congress leader Manish Tewari claimed Lois “hit a raw nerve” by calling the BJP fascists.