COVID-19 'bioweapon deployed by Centre,' says filmmaker; booked for sedition
Lakshadweep Police booked filmmaker Aisha Sultana yesterday on sedition charges after she had said that the PM Narendra Modi-led government has used COVID-19 as a "bioweapon." She made these comments while talking about how administrator Praful Khoda Patel handled the COVID-19 situation on a Malayalam TV debate this week. Following this, a complaint was filed by the BJP's Lakshadweep unit chief Abdul Khader Haji.
"Lakshadweep had zero cases of COVID-19. Now it's reporting a daily spike of 100 cases. What the Centre has deployed is a bioweapon. I can say this clearly that the central government has deployed bioweapon," Sultana had said. Notably, she hails from Chetiath island, Lakshadweep.
This comment made on MediaOne TV channel sparked a huge uproar, after which Haji sought action against her for her "anti-national" comments that are "tarnishing the patriotic image of the central government." A case under Section 124A (sedition) and Section 153B (hate speech) of the Indian Penal code was thus registered against the filmmaker. Meanwhile, Sultana defended her actions via a Facebook post.
"I had used the word bio-weapon in the TV channel debate. I have felt Patel as well as his policies [have acted] as a bio-weapon," she said. "It was through Patel and his entourage that COVID-19 spread in Lakshadweep. I have compared Patel as a bioweapon, not the government or the country.... You should understand. What else should I call him," Sultana added.
"I want to reiterate that truth will win. Case was filed by a BJP worker from Lakshadweep. I will continue my fight for the land where I was born. We don't fear anyone. My voice is going to be louder now," Sultana further said.
Meanwhile, Lakshadweep Sahitya Pravarthaka Sangam extended their support to Sultana. "It's not proper to depict her as anti-national. She had reacted against the inhumane approach of the administrator. It was Patel's interventions that made Lakshadweep a COVID-19-affected area. The cultural community in Lakshadweep would stand with her," said K Bahir, the organization's spokesperson. To note, this isn't the first time Patel has faced opposition.
Lakshadweep became the epicenter of protests by various political parties since Patel started implementing reform measures in the islands after taking charge in December last year. Residents of Lakshadweep have also disapproved many of the administration's proposed regulations, which they describe as "undemocratic" and "backward." The proposed rules include a preventive detention law, a cow slaughter ban, a land acquisition law, etc.
The draft Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation allows for the preventive detention of a person for up to one year. A person can be detained for "anti-social activities" for six-12 months without legal representation. However, Lakshadweep—home to 65,000 people (96% Muslim and 94.8% Scheduled Tribe)—has one of the lowest crime rates in India. Residents say the law will be used to target dissidents.