Overzealous Probe vs A Delayed One: Two Plays, Different Endings
In light of the Bidar sedition case, an earlier objectionable play has come to the spotlight.
Two plays in a span of little over a month have become case studies for Karnataka police’s prejudice. Both plays, enacted by school students, had content objectionable to sections of the society, but the police employed its energy in only one case, allege activists.
Little over a month after the Supreme Court said the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was an “egregious violation of the rule of law”, a play was organised at the Sri Rama Vidyakendra High School in Dakshina Kannada district’s Kalladka.
In the play, a group of students, on the instructions of a narrator, reenacted the controversial demolition of the Babri Masjid.
It has been more than 50 days since a complaint was filed against this play enacted in a communally sensitive area, but police are yet to question the main perpetrator in the case RSS ideologue Kalladka Prabhakar Bhatt, or prepare a chargesheet.
Cut to 5 February. Police officials in Bidar interrogated more than 60 students between the age of 9 and 11 years at the Shaheen Primary and High School over another play.
By the time the questioning ended, after Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights raised objection, the police had interrogated the children for over five days. Apart from questioning children, the police also arrested two women on charges of sedition a day after the complaint.
There have been questions raised as to why Karnataka Police are employing double standards in investigating two similar cases.
No Headway in Babri Reenactment Case
When The Quint spoke to BM Laxmi Prasad, Superintendent of Police (SP), Daskhina Kannada district, where the first case was filed, he said the investigation is still underway.
When asked if a chargesheet was ready since the 60-day time limit for filing the same is approaching, the SP said the chargesheet will take time as the investigation required more time.
“We have questioned some parents and teachers who were responsible for the play and further investigation is underway,” he said.
The play in question took place on 15 December 2019. Hundreds of students of classes 11 and 12 reenacted the events leading to demolition of Babri Majid with a running commentary in the background. Towards the end of the play, on the narrator’s cue, students are seen running towards the poster of Babri Masjid. They tear and stomp on the poster on the narrator’s cue.
RSS Ideologue Not Questioned
A day after the reenactment, an FIR was registered against the management of the RSS-run school, alleging the play was an attempt to create communal disharmony. The FIR named Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, an RSS ideologue and president of the Puttur Vivekananda Vidyarvaka Sangamya that runs the school.
When asked if Bhat was questioned, the officer said he (Bhat) had recorded his statement. When further verified with the local police station, The Quint learnt that Bhat was neither summoned to the police station nor he was questioned by any investigator.
No arrests have been made in the case so far and the police have not questioned any children who took part in the play for evidence collection.
The Contrasting Case Study 700 km Away
While the police are dragging their feet in Kalladka case, the overzealousness in Bidar case had raised several questions.
An ABVP worker had taken objection to the a line in play, which goes: “ I will ask him (PM Modi) where he was born and where are his documents. If can't show them I will hit with a chappal. Amma, I’m scared. Where do we go, leaving our home, our country and our livelihood.”
While the Dakshina Kannada police department filed an FIR on the charges of creating disharmony between communities, Bidar police filed a charge of sedition.
Since the child could not be booked under these charges, her mother and the school principal were arrested within a day of the complaint. More than 60 students in the school were questioned by police over the past five days.
A 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.”School staff
Why the Double Standards? Ask Activists
On Thursday, 6 February, a group of lawyers and activists held a protest outside the headquarters of the Karnataka Police in Bengaluru against the police’s interrogation of the children in the Bidar case.
Avni, one of the lawyers present at the protest, drew a comparison between the two cases: “There was another play that reenacted the Babri demolition, this was conducted by hundreds of students. Though the SC has held that the demolition was an egregious use of law, there were still no arrests. But arresting a mother and teacher without possibility of bail till 11 February, is something we object to.”
“While police have arrested two people and questioned school children, no such arrests were made in Kalladka case,” said lawyer Clifton Rozario.
He said there are two more major issues which suggests bias from the police’s side. “They (police) should have issued notices to those who were present at the event, which includes Pudhucherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and Union minister Sadananda Gowda. Most importantly since police was present at the event, they should have taken a suo motu case. This is not only double standard but also dereliction of duty by the police.”
Since child right commission’s notice on 5 February, police have not visited Shaheen school and classes went on without interruption. However, according to sources, Bidar police are now compiling the evidence they have collected from the interrogation of the students.
While they continue to pursue that case in all seriousness, their colleagues are yet to even conduct a proper questioning of the RSS ideologue behind the Kalladka school play, even as he claims more such plays will performed in other schools.
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