A new database launched by Article 14 on Tuesday showed that 96% of the sedition cases filed against 405 Indians for criticising political leaders and governments over the last decade were registered after the Narendra Modi government first came to power in 2014.
Of these, the website said 149 people were accused of making “critical” or “derogatory” remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and 144 against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath. Article 14 tracked sedition cases filed between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2020.
The cases were continuously filed even as the Supreme Court repeatedly held that criticism is not sedition.
The new database showed that six sedition cases were filed during the ongoing farmers’ agitation, 22 after the Hathras gangrape, 25 amid protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019 and 27 after the Pulwama terror attack. Those charged with sedition included Opposition leaders, students, journalists, academics and authors.
Twenty-two of the sedition cases related to the anti-CAA protests were registered in BJP-ruled states. In the case of Pulwama attack, 26 of the 27 sedition cases were also filed in states where the saffron party was in power.
Article 14 found that Bihar, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu accounted for nearly 65% of all sedition cases registered in the last ten years. Majority of the case in four states – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Jharkhand – were filed during the BJP’s tenure.
“The database found that sedition charges were a de-facto strategy for many of these governments, each time they encountered public criticism and protests,” the website said.
The database also showed that 65% of the 10,938 citizens accused of sedition over the last decade found themselves implicated after Modi came to power at the Centre in 2014.
Article 14 also found that holding posters, shouting slogans, social media posts and even personal communication were among the expressions considered to be seditious by the current government.
The website’s database revealed that in nearly 30% of sedition cases, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and other laws were added to the first information reports.
It also found a 28% increase in sedition cases registered each year during Modi’s term in office between 2014 and 2020, as against the United Progressive Alliance’s second term between 2010 and 2014. This was attributed to a huge increase in cases after protests against the citizenship law and the Hathras gangrape.