The Mysore Bar Association on Tuesday said its lawyers would not appear for a woman who was booked for holding a “Free Kashmir” placard at a protest in Mysuru last week, News18 reported on Wednesday. The police had booked Nalini Balakumar for sedition days after she was seen holding the placard on January 8 during a protest against the mob attack on the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“Some members of our bar association wrote to us saying we must not represent the person who was involved in an anti-national activity,” Anand Kumar, the president of the Mysore Bar Association said. “Even her lawyer has withdrawn from representing her. We agreed that this decision was right and decided that none of us would represent the person who has been booked by the police for sedition.” Kumar said he requests other lawyers also not to represent Balakumar.
Nalini, an alumna of University of Mysore, was part of the protest on campus called by the Dalit Students’ Association and Mysore University Research Students Association on January 8. The police booked the organisers for sedition. The police identified Balakumar through videos and interrogated her on January 11.
On January 10, Balakumar released a video apologising for “creating confusion”. She said she was only highlighting the internet shutdown in Kashmir, and would cooperate with the police. Balakumar was granted interim conditional bail the same day by a local court.
Vinay Sreenivasa, a Bengaluru-based lawyer and activist, lashed out at the Mysore Bar Association. “This kind of bar association is a blot on the lawyers’ community and on the Constitution,” he said. “Shame on the Mysore bar. Next time lawyers refuse to represent an alleged terrorist or alleged rapist, don’t cheer them, cheering them then led us here.”
Similar case from Mumbai
Writer Mehak Mirza Prabhu was also seen holding a “Free Kashmir” placard during a protest at the Gateway of India in Mumbai last week. Prabhu was among hundreds of Mumbai residents who participated in the “Occupy Gateway” protest on the pavements near the monument to condemn the violence at JNU.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on January 7 that the police would take legal action against the writer for the placard. Deshmukh is a leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, which is in alliance in the state along with the Shiv Sena and the Congress. Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had lashed out at the state government for allowing this kind of protest.
However, the Shiv Sena, in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana on January 9, backed Prabhu. “A Mumbaikar Marathi woman could understand the pain of Kashmiris,” the party said. “The Opposition feels this is sedition. There can’t be a dirtier example of irresponsibility. If the Opposition and its supporters feel expressing yourself fearlessly is sedition, it is not good for them [Opposition] and the country. The Opposition has fallen flat on its face after the woman’s clarification.”
Prabhu had, in a video posted on Facebook, said her placard was in defence of the right to enjoy freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. “Right now, because of the internet shutdown in Kashmir since the last five months, people of Kashmir do not have that right,” she said. The internet shutdown was partially lifted on Wednesday.