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Home / India News / Karnataka high court questions interrogation of children in anti-CAA play

Karnataka high court questions interrogation of children in anti-CAA play

Students at a school in Karnataka performed a satirical play on January 21 in which reference were made to “dictators”.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2020 20:21 IST
Reuters
Reuters
Bengaluru
A child holds a placard during a protest against CAA in front of Town Hall in Bengaluru.
A child holds a placard during a protest against CAA in front of Town Hall in Bengaluru. (ANI photo)

A court on Friday ordered the Karnataka government to explain why police interrogated children who performed a play critical of a new citizenship law, a lawyer said, in a case that has raised questions about freedom of speech.

Parliament in December passed a law, championed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP, aimed at facilitating citizenship for migrant members of non-Muslim religions from India’s Muslim-majority neighbours.

Critics say the law violates India’s secular constitution and discriminates against minority Muslims. At least 25 people have been killed in protests against it.

Students at a school in Karnataka performed a satirical play on Jan. 21 in which reference were made to “dictators” and dialogue that suggested hitting the PM with a shoe, which is seen as particularly insulting.

Police, lawyers and school officials said that following a complaint from a member of the public, the headmistress of the school, Farida Begum, and the mother of one of the children who took part in the play were arrested on Jan. 30.

Police later questioned children as young as nine, some of them as many as five times, said Thouseef Madikeri, chief executive of a foundation that runs the Shaheen English Primary and High School, and Narayan Ganesh, a lawyer for the two accused women.

Karnataka’s top court on Friday gave the state government, ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), until next Wednesday to respond to a rights group’s allegations that police illegally questioned the children, said Nayana Jhawar, a lawyer for the group.

A senior police official, Basweshwar H., said the incident was being investigated. He declined to comment further.

According to an initial police report, seen by Reuters, the complainant accused school officials of raising “ill-will and fear among communities” by staging the play.

The two women have been charged under a colonial-era sedition law that rights groups have long argued stifles freedom of expression.

“It’s a silly case. Lampooning political leaders is not sedition,” said Madikeri.