Tripura police on Monday slapped sedition charges against a group of people for allegedly raising anti-India slogans during a protest rally organised by tribal bodies and attended by several political leaders in the state six days ago against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The rally organisers, however, said the January 30 protest was peaceful and the allegation was baseless.
The bill, passed in Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of continuous residence in India, instead of 12, even if they do not possess the documents required for it. Protests against the bill have rocked the entire northeast, including the BJP-ruled Tripura. Several organisations and political parties in the region have claimed that the legislation threatens the identity, language and culture of the indigenous people.
On January 30, Movement against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MACAB), a political platform of seven tribal organisations, organised the rally in Khumulwng, the headquarters of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous Territorial Council, about 20 km from Agartala. A police officer said a group at the rally shouted slogans that amounted to sedition.
"Around 40 people raised slogans like 'Bye Bye India, Hello China', which is not acceptable. We are in the process of collecting the video footage and other documents," said Pran Krishna Das, sub-divisional police officer of Jirania in West Tripura district. Among those who attended the rally were members of Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra, Twipra Student Federation, Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura-(Tipraha), National Conference of Tripura, Tripura Peoples Front and Schedule Tribe cell of the opposition Congress.
Several political leaders, including INPT General Secretary Jagadish Debbarma, MACAB convener Anthony Debbarma and IPFT-Tipraha chief Aghore Debbarma, had joined the rally. "Jagadish Debbarma, Anthony Debbarma and Aghore Debbarma along with their supporters are involved in a criminal conspiracy to promote sedition and hatred between racial groups and for this, they have defied the provisions of Tripura Police Act as well," the FIR filed by sub-inspector Rathindra Debbarma said.
Reacting to the sedition case, the MACAB convener said, "It was a peaceful protest in a democratic environment. A false allegation has been made to suppress the voice of the indigenous people. I condemn it and it is a violation of freedom of expression." The INPT general secretary, too, said the allegation was baseless. But Tripura BJP spokesperson Ashok Sinha said his party has come to know that 30-40 people were "planted" at the protest rally by "certain elements" to raise anti-India slogans. He declined to comment on the identity of the people who shouted the slogans or who planted them.
(With inputs from agencies.)