Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Wednesday said that sedition charges filed against more than 3,000 people in Dhanbad city for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act have been dropped. Police had filed the charges on Tuesday, naming seven people and 3,000 unnamed protestors.
“Laws are not made to frighten and silence the people but to instill a feeling of safety among the public,” Soren said in two tweets. “My government will work towards being the voice of the people. We have recommended taking back the sedition cases registered against 3,000 people and also asked for action against official concerned.” The chief minister also appealed to the people of Jharkhand to respect the law and order in the state.
State Home Secretary Sukhdev Singh said that he had spoken to Director General of Police KN Choubey about lifting Section 124 A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code imposed against protestors. “The FIR was lodged as the protest procession with huge number of people was taken out without permission, though we did make elaborate security arrangements after getting information about the march,” an unidentified sub-divisional officer told The Telegraph.
The first information report, which Scroll.in accessed, shows that the protestors have been charged under 11 sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Around 4,000 people had reportedly taken part in the protest from Ara Mor neighbourhood in Wasseypur to Randhir Verma Chowk in the city. They carried banners against the amended citizenship law and slogans were raised about Hindu-Muslim unity and “azaadi [freedom]”.
One of the demonstrators, Md Noushad, said that they had asked for permission from the district authorities several times but only verbal assurance was given. “We waited for the [written] permission for days but finally we took out the peaceful protest march on Tuesday as we felt that our Constitution gave us the democratic right to protest against anything peacefully,” he said.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people died in last month’s protests against the citizenship law. Of these, 19 people died in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka.
On December 31, the Meerut Police in Uttar Pradesh had added sedition charges against protestors arrested during demonstrations on December 20. This came a day after a senior police officer was caught on camera telling protestors to “go to Pakistan”.