The Mumbai Police have filed a sedition case against 51 persons, including activist Urvashi Chudawala, for allegedly chanting slogans in support of Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam at a queer pride parade on Saturday. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya had filed a case against those who chanted the slogans.
The charges slapped on the 51 individuals included Sections 124A (sedition), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 505 (public mischief) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, Deputy Commissioner of Police Pranay Ashok told PTI.
The city’s annual queer pride march was earlier scheduled to take place at August Kranti Maidan, but police denied permission, claiming that placards and slogans criticising the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens were likely be used at the event. The organisers went ahead with the event at Azad Maidan after getting permission on certain conditions.
However, a video showed that Chudawala had purportedly led sloganeering towards the end of the pride march. Slogans such as “Sharjeel tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pahuchaenge”, or “Sharjeel, we will convert your dreams into reality”, were heard.
Somaiya, a former MP, filed a police complaint, alleging that “anti-national slogans” were raised, “few persons abused the country”, and “the function was misused to support Shaheen Bagh/anti-CAA feelings”. He threatened to start a sit-in at Azad Maidan police station if action was not taken in three days. He also tweeted a video of the sloganeering.
The organisers condemned the “abrupt radical slogans” and “completely dissociated” themselves from them. “It was irresponsible and potentially detrimental and none of the individuals raising these slogans were part of the organising process or permissions process with us,” they posted on Facebook. “These slogans, performances, and protests happened abruptly and precipitously without the consent of the organisers.”
After getting permission for holding the event at Azad Maidan a day before the event, the organisers had told participants on Facebook that to get the permission, they had promised that participants would not go on the road outside for any “activism”, would not use language or symbols or posters that could “offend or infuriate the emotions of any person or community”, and would not harm any public or private property. The organisers would be liable to be booked in case of any violation, they said.
They also said, “We have permission to speak about human, legal, political rights of queer persons and all issues affecting queer individuals.”
The pride march was to be the culmination of a series of events organised by Queer Azaadi Mumbai over the past five weeks. Queer Azaadi Mumbai is a “collective of individuals and organisations voluntarily joining hands for the queer cause and demanding equal rights for the queer community”.
A PhD scholar, Sharjeel Imam is under fire for remarks he allegedly made at Aligarh Muslim University on January 16. In a clip on social media, Imam was purportedly heard telling protestors to “cut off Assam from India” by occupying the “Muslim-dominated Chicken’s Neck”. The comment was widely perceived as a secessionist one, but Imam later claimed that he had called for peaceful protests to “block roads going to Assam” – “basically a call for chakka jam”.
Imam was arrested from Bihar on Tuesday after five states – Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Delhi – filed sedition cases against him for allegedly making incendiary remarks.