Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday urged the state police to drop sedition charges against two women who were arrested in Bidar district after the students of a school allegedly performed a play on January 21 criticising the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act. The police have claimed the students – in classes 4, 5 and 6 – insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They have arrested the head teacher of Shaheen Urdu Medium Primary School and the mother of one of the students.

Siddaramaiah lashed out at the state government led by Bharatiya Janata Party leader BS Yediyurappa. “The act of BS Yediyurappa government to let police harass the innocent students, their parents and teachers for the enactment of a skit shall be condemned,” he tweeted. “The BJP in Karnataka is facing ideological bankruptcy which is making them to stoop to such low levels.”

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress leader said the “dictator” was unveiling his “draconian face” because of his weakening position. “Police are let to harm students of universities in Delhi, his stooges are instigated to open fire against peaceful protestors,” Siddaramaiah added. “The same autocratic mindset wants to take revenge on Bidar school students.”

Urging the police to drop the cases filed against the students, teachers and parents, the Congress leader said: “We are in an independent India and not under British Raj.” He asked the BJP if it considered as sedition the re-enactment the demolition of Babri Masjid at a school in Dakshina Kannada district last year.

The police have drawn flak for filing the sedition charges on the basis of a complaint of an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and questioning the young students, including a nine year old.

Tauseef Madikeri, the school’s chief executive officer, has claimed the police wanted all the students who had participated in the play to be brought to the police station. But the school refused to do so. “We plainly told them we won’t allow any child to be taken to the police station. It is against the Juvenile Justice Act,” he added.

Meanwhile, a group of demonstrators protested against the police outside its state headquarters in Bengaluru on Thursday, NDTV reported. “These are bad times,” said veteran theatre personality Prasanna. “You don’t treat children as Muslim or Hindu. You don’t discriminate. It is hurting to a Hindu, I am a Hindu. The government should realise that Hindutva is becoming too angry and getting isolated from the Hindus. This is not done.”

A group of state Congress leaders met Director General of Police Praveen Sood during the day. “Whether this was liable for any police action was a big question mark,” state Congress Committee President Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters after the meeting. “The second question mark is the alacrity with which the police have acted and the use of the sedition law. It shows there was some undue influence on the police to take strict action against this institution. Because it is a minority owned institution... And a community is being targeted – the use of laws to subjugate them and silence the opposition. But Anantkumar Hegde can say anything he wants...” Hegde had called Mahatma Gandhi’s movement that led to India’s freedom “one big drama”.

The Child Welfare Committee has issued a notice to the police over the incident. The panel said it was making sure of the welfare of the child whose mother has been arrested. The bail applications of the two women arrested in the case will be heard next week.