oppn parties Arresting Sofia: Why Is The Ruling Class So Insecure?

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Arresting Sofia: Why Is The Ruling Class So Insecure?

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
The Lois Sofia episode shows how politicians try to show their muscle power and misuse the law to harass ordinary citizens. What Sofia shouted is being done thousands of times by thousands of people all over West Bengal on a daily basis. In rallies, street corner meetings and student protests, people shout anti-BJP and anti-Modi slogans. Does that mean all of them should be arrested? Or was it the word “fascist” that got Tamil Nadu BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan’s goat? Sofia was perhaps agitated as the government had raided rights’ activists some days ago and had arrested a few of them. Since these raids and arrests were done in a highhanded manner, Sofia considered the government to be fascist. Isn’t she entitled to her opinion and isn’t she within her rights to express it?

Sofia was arrested under sections 290 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code and section 75(1) of the Tamil Nadu City Police Act, 1988. Sec 290 provides for arrest for causing public nuisance in cases which are not defined under any law. Interestingly, the section does not provide for imprisonment but just imposes a fine of Rs 200. The section is generally used to lodge what are called “petty” cases in police parlance. Hence, it is obvious that its use in this case is to cause maximum harassment. As for section 505, the sub section b is what can be invoked in Sofia’s case. It reads: “(Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report,) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.” But it is highly debatable whether shouting, even in an aircraft, “fascist BJP government, down, down” invites action under this section.

The ruling class has to accept that there will always be a sizeable number of citizens who will dislike its policies and actions. It also has to recognize that these citizens have the right to criticize and speak their mind. Harassing and arresting people for just shouting slogans or showing black flags or protesting in any other peaceful manner is trying to take away their democratic right. The government is just showing its insecurity in carrying out these raids and arrests.