‘Moving towards an authoritarian state’: Rahul Gandhi on FIR against celebs

The Congress leader is in Wayanad to express solidarity with protestors who are on a fast against the night traffic ban along the Kozhikode-Bengaluru National Highway 766.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is on a visit to his constituency Wayanad in north Kerala.(ANI PHOTO.)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is on a visit to his constituency Wayanad in north Kerala.(ANI PHOTO.)
Updated on Oct 04, 2019 09:56 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday criticized the move to file sedition charges against 50 celebrities who wrote an open letter to the PM expressing concern over recurring lynching incidents and said, anyone who spoke against Prime Minister Narendra Modi was thrown into jail.

“Everybody knows what is going on. We all know the present day rulers believe in one ideology, one leader and one policy. For them dissension is sedition. It is pretty clear we are moving towards an authoritarian state,” he said in Wayanad, his constituency in north Kerala.

The Congress leader is in Wayanad to express solidarity with protestors who are on a fast against the night traffic ban along the Kozhikode-Bengaluru National Highway 766.

An FIR was filed in Muzaffarpur in Bihar on Thursday against 50 celebrities including writer Ramachandra Guha, director Adoor Gopalakrishnan and actor/director Aparna Sen, who had written a letter raising concern over the growing number of lynching incidents. A local court directed the police to register a case after a leader of the Hindu Manch approached it saying they had insulted the country.

“On one side, there is the idea that the country should be ruled by one man and one ideology and everyone else should shut up. But we say the country has divergent views and different languages. Differences and dissensions should not be crushed,” the Congress leader said.

Meanwhile Adoor Gopalakrishnan, one of the signatories, chided authorities for registering cases against the signatories of the letter. “The petition is frivolous and it infringed on the freedom of expression. I don’t know how the court admitted it,” he said.

Gandhi, who was on a day’s visit, earlier in the day called on youth who have been on a hunger strike since September 25. “I am in Wayanad to stand in solidarity with the youth who have been on hunger strike protesting against the travel ban on the national highway 766. Earlier, I visited those who had to be hospitalized as a result of the prolonged fast,” he tweeted.

All political parties in Wayanad have come together to form an action council and launched an indefinite strike saying the night travel ban had crippled their lives. The movement of traffic through the forest was banned from 9 pm to 6 am in an effort to reduce disturbance to wildlife. Though Kerala protested vehemently the Supreme Court had upheld the ban last month and asked authorities to develop an alternate route. But people who oppose it say it will be a detour and will cripple small towns along the existing high way.

After the SC verdict, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had proposed an elevated highway through the national park connecting Wayanad with Mysuru but the union environment ministry had turned down his proposal. The state said the ban was affecting people of at least three districts, Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram. During his latest visit to Delhi he took it up with the union environment ministry but failed to get any response.

The night traffic ban issue is almost a decade-old. The Karnataka Forest Department had introduced the ban in 2009 after some animal-hit cases. It was challenged in the Karnataka HC which later upheld it. After several rounds of legal battle, the Supreme Court also upheld the verdict and asked authorities to develop an alternate route.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022