In a statement on Friday, Jharkhand Police said media reports have given “totally incorrect and hugely inflated figures” about the number of people booked in sedition cases in Khunti district.
On Tuesday, Scroll.in had reported that the police had filed sedition cases against more than 10,000 people in the district over 2017 and 2018 when Adivasi villages erected stone monoliths with engravings of the Indian Constitution related to tribal autonomy.
The report was based on an analysis of 19 First Information Reports in which 132 of the accused were identified by name and thousands of others were listed as “unknown” accused. A writ petition filed in the High Court said Adivasis in the district were living in fear since the police could name them in the cases later.
The police statement, released on Twitter, is silent on the thousands of “unknown” people listed as the accused. It restricts itself to confirming sedition cases against 172 people.
“There are 19 criminal cases in Khunti district which have been declared true [under section 121A and 124A of the Indian Penal Code],” it said. “These cases are true against 172 accused persons only.”
Declaring a case true or false is a subsequent step in the course of a police investigation, which begins with the filing of an FIR. The police statement does not clarify how many cases were filed and what is the total number of accused – named and unnamed – in those cases.
Of the 19 FIRs that Scroll.in examined, 14 FIRs featured sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code as part of the offences. Those 14 FIRs listed more than 10,000 people as accused, the bulk of them “unknown”.
At the time of writing the report, Scroll.in had emailed detailed questions to Jharkhand police about these FIRs. Speaking on phone, the police superintendent of Khunti district, Ashutosh Shekhar, had said he could not respond until the elections were over.