60 Kids, 4 Hours, 1 Sedition Case: Parents in K’taka’s Bidar Speak
For the fourth time in a week, kids of classes 4-6 were interrogated by policemen over a ‘seditious’ play performed at a school function on 21 January. On Monday, 3 February, cops reportedly came with a list of 7 students they wanted to meet again.
“They came with a list of names and spoke to students for about an hour. Since the kids told them they used to practice in front of the canteen, the kids who were in the play were taken there and their pictures were clicked,” Thouseef Madikeri, CEO of Shaheen Educational Institute told The Quint.
The Bidar police had on Saturday, interrogated over 60 minor students, aged 9 to 12 years old. A parent and headmistress were arrested on 31 January and were remanded to judicial custody.
Ali (name changed), father of one of the children who participated in the play, said that the children’s performance was supposed to be critical of the NRC and CAA, and not anti-national, as claimed by the police.
Since the school is part-residential, many of the students questioned are from outside Karnataka, with their families living elsewhere.
“They have called it sedition, it’s not anti-national. The kids have just done a drama, it is anti-NCR, but not anti-national. The police are behaving like UP police and arresting whoever they want. When a gun is fired in Shaheen Bagh, there is nobody to question but here they arresting teachers and parents. They are harassing our kids.”Ali, parent (name changed)
School authorities said that six to seven policemen in plain clothes, including Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Basaveshwara Heera, spent about four hours interrogating students from 12 to 4 pm on Saturday, a school staffer present told The Quint.
Thouseef Madikeri, CEO of Shaheen Educational Institute said that students had been interrogated in groups three times last week and the staff were functioning under a pall of fear. “The mother who has been picked up, Najbunissa is a single mother doing domestic work. Since her arrest, their landlord is taking care of her daughter. Our school administration has also received calls saying we should not give information and pictures to press. We are under a lot of pressure,” he said.
‘Cops Asking Leading Questions’
A staff member who did not wish to be identified said that the cops took extra effort to speak to students in blind spots, where CCTV cameras were not present, during their most recent trip to the school.
“They were playing the video of the play’s performance on loop – pausing and asking children questions about the students on stage and even those in the audience. They kept asking the same questions in different ways; asking the kids to name their friends and parents of friends,” he said.
The staff member, who was present during the questioning, said that being innocent and not fully aware of what was happening, the children answered the best that they could.
“The kids did not understand the context. The function that day was like any other, and they did not give it much importance. They were asked about teachers on duty at that time and who helped students prepare the play etc. The policemen were in plain clothes, and were recording every single thing and what every student said,” he said.
‘Union Ministers Say ‘Goli Maaro’ but Muslims Being Harassed’
Fuming over the behaviour of Bidar police, Ali, a parent who wished to remain anonymous said that it was obvious that the police was being biased and there was nobody to check their discriminatory actions.
“As soon as they see someone with a skullcap, they want to punish them. But in Delhi, there is nobody to ask questions when someone fires a gun at Shaheen Bagh. Union ministers say ‘goli maaro’ but they are not arrested. People like us are arrested. The children are not anti-national, but they are just trying to shame and embarrass Muslims,” he said.
Ali added that the parent arrested was a widow and that the family was financially weak.
According to the FIR that was registered at the station on 26 January, the management has been booked under Sections 124A (sedition), 504 (provoking breach of peace), 505(2) (statements promoting enmity), 34 (act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and 153A (promoting communal hatred). One Mohammed Yousuf, a local journalist and parent who had been booked along with the school authorities, has been unreachable since the FIR.
The remand application, filed on 31 January, reportedly states that the daughter of Najbunissa, who has been arrested, reportedly told the police that her mother had told her to make a comment critical of PM Modi, in the play. Worryingly, the parent had not been named in the initial FIR.
Speaking to The Quint, CEO Madikeri said that the school was trying to function as normally as possible with exams about a month away.
“We get students from across the country studying in our school. We cannot afford to hamper their studies. We are trying our best to see that classes are not affected,” he said.
Citizens Collective Criticizes Bidar Police
Issuing a statement criticising the local cops, the Karnataka wing of the citizens collective ‘Hum Bharat Ke Log,’ called the ‘sedition case and related arrests by the Bidar police in a blatant abuse of sedition law.’
“Such action is also in stark contrast to the absolute inaction of the police in ensuring action against blatantly communal and hate speech. Karnataka’s Tourism Minister C. T. Ravi has tweeted that “anti-nationals should get bullet not biryani” and Bellary MLA Somashekhar Reddy has threatened violence against CAA protestors , however, no FIR whatsoever has been registered against them under Section 153-A of the IPC for promoting enmity on grounds of religion. This has allowed for right-wing provocateurs to continue their incendiary hate speech without any repercussions,” their statement read.
(With inputs from The News Minute)