Lakshadweep Stands With Aisha Sultana, Condemns Sedition Charges
Support poured in for Lakshadweep actor Aisha Sultana, booked for sedition, for criticising the administrator.
Who is Aisha Sultana?
Sultana hails from Chetiath island in Lakshadweep and is a model, director, script writer and actor. She is the first woman filmmaker from Lakshadweep. She made her independent directorial debut in 2020 with her Malayalam film 'Flush', for which she also wrote the script.
She has earlier worked with Malayalam filmmaker Lal Jose. She has worked as an associate director on the Malayalam film Kettyolaanu Ente Malaakh. She has been in the forefront in the protests against the new regulations in Lakshadweep.
On 10 June, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged a protest on the islands seeking action against the filmmaker, she took to Facebook stating that she cannot be silenced.
“The BJP leader who filed the case is a Lakshadweep native. When he betrays his homeland, I will keep up the fight for the homeland. Those who are going to be alone tomorrow are those who are betraying the islands...I didn’t raise my voice to back off when they try to oppress me. My voice is only going to be louder again (sic.),” Sultana said in the Facebook post.
She had even protested outside the administrator's official residence.
"To Lakshadweep Administration, attention. Natural resource of a state belongs to its people. Hence stop this act of greed and surrender to truth...," read one of her posts sent on 1 June.
Move to 'Intimidate': Advocate Faseela
Several people of Lakshadweep have expressed solidarity with Aisha Sultana.
Advocate Faseela Ibrahim, who has been vocal about her criticism of these drafts slammed the move as ‘atrocious.’
“Aisha had clarified that she was merely criticising the atrocities by the administration. These are grave charges filed against her and can be seen as a form of curtailing dissent so as to intimidate someone who is speaking to the media.”Advocate Faseela Ibrahim
Sultana is presently weighing her legal options and might challenge the case in the High Court soon.
Ibrahim added that in the past there have been a few sedition cases in the Union Territory, which were all linked to political squabbles. A few months ago, sedition charges were filed against a few islanders who were protesting against the administration. They then had to seek bail in the Kerala High Court, after which the charges were dropped.
Showing solidarity, an islander told The Quint, “We don’t find anything wrong in the word she used because she just echoed our sentiments. It is because of the administrator that Lakshadweep became a COVID hotspot.”
FIR 'Reeks of Intentional High Handedness'
Several people took to social media stating this was a violation of people's fundamental rights.
Activist Saket Gokhale has written to Patel stating the First Information Report (FIR) ‘reeks not only of political persecution but also of intentional high-handedness and intimidation by the Lakshadweep administration.’ He cited several instances in the past and pointed out that this case will not stand testimony in the court. He demanded that the FIR be withdrawn and a departmental inquiry be initiated and appropriate action be taken against the police official in charge of the case.
Students Federation of India (SFI) expressed solidarity with the filmmaker and called this move ‘unacceptable’.
Congress leader Karti Chidambaram tweeted, “This is the New India under the BJP India.’
Writer Suchitra Vijayan shared the news of the case on Twitter and also a link to an article titled, 'In Lakshadweep, a Political Administrator Courts Ecological Mayhem'. It highlighted how the slew of bills announced by the Lakshadweep administration has the local community panicking about its future.
BJP: Statement 'Anti-National, Anti-Government'
The Quint spoke to the complainant Abdul Khader, BJP's Lakshadweep unit president who said that many more complaints will be filed in the next two days as the cadre is quite upset with her statements.
“What she said was anti-national and anti-government which tarnished the patriotic image of the Union government. Even if she was talking about the administrator, he is a leader appointed by the Centre and she has no right to speak about the government that way. This is unacceptable.”Abdul Khader, BJP’s Lakshadweep Unit President
The Yuva Morcha Palakkad District unit too filed a complaint on 8 July accusing Sultana of spreading ‘false information at the time of a pandemic.’
Many have blamed the spike in coronavirus cases at Lakshadweep – which recorded its first case in January 2021 – on relaxing the quarantine measures under Patel’s administration. After Patel took charge as the administrator, the earlier quarantine and testing rules were also relaxed.
Khader responded to this allegation stating, “In Kochi, people had to stay in quarantine for 15 days and the government was taking care of the lodging and food. But there is a limit on the government’s finances. And looking at the situation, he had relaxed restrictions which led to the rise in COVID cases. But the administration cannot be blamed for this.”
Madhya Pradesh BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje tweeted, “A clear case of sedition & attempt to undermining the efforts of government to develop island. She must be charged for sedition & resorting into dangerous levels of hate-mongering!”
Khader argued that the people’s protests ‘didn’t have any purpose’ as the policies are still in the draft stage.
“Praful Patel made these rough drafts for our development and asked for our feedback. So we were supposed to send our suggestions. But the people here took it out of hand and made it a huge issue for nothing. Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan has even passed a resolution. Why are people from other states meddling in our affairs?”
Several locals told The Quint that this was an attempt by the BJP leaders to suppress the people’s voice.
“A few BJP leaders who are part of the ‘Save Lakshadweep’ forum are also not completely with us in this fight. But we will not be silenced,” said an islander.
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