A wave of protests may have rocked the Capital over sedition charges against JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar but thousands of miles away, the Maoist violence-hit Jharkhand has the highest number of such cases in India.
The state registered 18 sedition cases in 2014.
Most of them were against Maoist rebels, their front organisations and sympathisers, who have a presence in 16 of the state’s 24 districts.
Extremist violence has killed 499 civilians and 1,689 policemen in the past 15 years.
Top officials say lower-rung police officers use the 156-year-old sedition provision liberally against Maoist rebels when they attack forces, hoist black flags during national festivals, or are found carrying pamphlets against India’s unity and integrity.
But many of these cases collapse and embarrass the force.
“IPC Section 124-A (sedition) is very loosely worded and open to varied interpretations,” said Jharkhand police additional director general of police (ADGP) special branch Anurag Gupta.
But do cases end up into convictions? “Unfortunately no, because evidences are scanty and procedures are not followed completely,” Gupta said.
Several senior state police officials conceded there was a severe lack of knowledge about sedition laws among lower rung officers.
In some cases, chargesheets were filed without seeking the government’s permission—mandatory for framing sedition charges — resulting in major embarrassment for the police in courts, said AGDP Anil Palta.
“The cops blatantly used sedition against most of us. The idea was to prevent us from getting bail sooner whenever we got caught or surrendered,” said Yugal Pal, once a senior Maoist commander and now a social activist in Palamu.
Pal said as newer laws came in place, police switched from Section 124 (A) to 17 Criminal Law Amendment Act (CLAA) and the Unlawful Assembly Prevention Act (UAPA) as these laws were tougher and required lesser intervention by the state.
But state secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties Shashi Bhushan Pathak said it was easy to “frame” Maoists for sedition as they were locals fighting against forcible usurping of their land and minerals by corporates.
Economist Harishwar Dayal, director of Institute for Human Development (IHD), eastern regional centre said until non-state players shun violence and provide alternative growth plans, they will “remain enemies in the eyes of law”.
“India of the 21st century does not require a law used by the colonial government to suppress India’s voice,” said Maoist-turned-activist Satishji.
Slain CPI (Maoist) politburo member Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji had argued with HT months before his death in an encounter with forces that Maoists were the biggest patriots.
“If Pakistan attacks India, we would be happy to form the first line of defence against them. Unfortunately, the state considers us bigger enemies.”
Another Maoist spokesperson, Bablooji, had said they take 7 % levy for running their revolutionary force and carrying out development programmes in villages.
The government officers take 20-30 % cut in allocating welfare schemes. “Who is anti-national?” he had asked.