A Karnataka lawyer has approached a court demanding sedition charges be filed against actress-turned-politician Ramya for praising Pakistanis, triggering a controversy with many saying the colonial-era law is being used to curb free speech.
Ramya, a Congress leader, visited Islamabad last week for a meeting of young parliamentarians from the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations.
On her return, she said she didn’t agree with defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who recently compared Pakistan to hell .
“Pakistan is not hell; people there are just like us. They treated us very well,” she told reporters.
This infuriated Katnamane Vittal Gowda from Kodagu – about 250 km from Bengaluru -- who moved a court in Somwarpet on Monday and said he was “appalled” by the 33-year-old’s comments. The court will hear the case on August 27.
Ramya has said she will not apologise. “I don’t think I am wrong. It’s freedom of speech, also our duty to speak on inclusiveness and peace. Curbing freedoms is wrong in democracy,” she told news agency ANI.
The incident comes amid a heated nationwide debate over the sedition law following charges against Amnesty India for alleged “anti-national” slogans chanted at a Bengaluru event against mounting casualties in Kashmir on August 13. The case was filed on a complaint by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the RSS.
In February, sedition charges were filed against Jawaharlal Nehru University students for alleged “anti-national” chants at an event, sparking widespread protests. Activists say the sedition law is vague and often used to crack down on dissent.
The law also presents a difficulty for the Congress, which publicly backed the JNU students but rules Karnataka that brought the sedition charges against Amnesty India.
The case against the human-rights group has drawn massive criticism of the state government, both nationally and internationally. Chief minister Siddaramaiah has been unable to rally his followers around a common consensus on whether the law is justifiable or not in a modern democracy.
A day after Independence Day at a gathering in Haryana’s Rewari district, , Parrikar said, “Yesterday, our soldiers sent back five terrorists. Going to Pakistan is the same as going to hell.”
Ramya disagreed, saying politicians wanted to spread hatred and said she won’t apologise for the “larger cause”
“Everybody is entitled to their views and that is what democracy is about, you can’t force your ideology on anyone. It is really sad but such is situation in the country today,” she told ANI.
Ramya was a Lok Sabha member from Mandya for a year and joined the Congress in 2011. Her real name is Divya Spandana.