Sedition case against Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sulthana for ‘bioweapon’ remark

·3-min read
Sedition case against Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sulthana for ‘bioweapon’ remark

The Lakshadweep Police on Thursday booked filmmaker Aisha Sulthana on sedition charges following a complaint by a BJP leader, alleging that she spread false news about the spread of COVID-19 in the Union Territory in a television news debate. In the news debate on Media One, a Malayalam news channel, on the contentious reforms implemented by the Lakshadweep administration, Aisha had critiqued the Union government alleging that a ‘bioweapon’ had been used in the Union Territory. Later she said that she had referred to Administrator Praful Patel and his policies as a bioweapon.

She made the remark on the channel, stating that the islands did not have any COVID-19 cases in the first phase of the pandemic, but now, more than 100 cases are reported daily. Many have blamed the spike in COVID-19 cases at Lakshadweep – which recorded its first COVID-19 case in January of this year – on relaxing the quarantine measures under Patel’s administration. After Patel took charge as the Administrator, the earlier quarantine and testing rules were also relaxed.

The complaint was filed by the BJP's Lakshadweep unit president Abdul Khader. Sulthana hails from Chetiath island in Lakshadweep and is also a model and actor. According to the First Information Report lodged by the Kavaratti police, a case under sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered against the filmmaker.

The complaint filed by the BJP leader, Khader said that Aisha, during a debate in a Malayalam news channel, had alleged that the Union government used biological weapon in Lakshadweep. The BJP leader, in his complaint, has alleged that Aisha’s was an “anti-national” act, which tarnished the patriotic image of the Union government. He sought action against her.

For over a month, scores of Lakshadweep residents have been protesting against contentious regulations brought in on the islands by Administrator Praful Patel. In a television news debate on the controversial regulations, Aisha had said, “The Union government states that it is specially protecting Lakshadweep as it is an isolated place. Is this ‘protection’ what brought Lakshadweep, which had zero COVID-19 cases (in the first phase), to a situation where more than 100 cases are reported daily". She went on to say that a bio weapon had been used by the administrator and asked why he removed the restrictions imposed on the island thereby leading to an increase in infection. The panel discussion had also seen heated reactions from the BJP’s spokesperson, asking Aisha to retrieve her ‘bioweapon’ remark, but she was seen sticking to her allegation.

According to the Indian Express, Aisha however said that she used the word bioweapon in relation to the policies of the Administrator. She posted on Facebook, “I had used the word bio-weapon in the TV channel debate. I have felt Patel as well as his policies [have acted] as a bio-weapon. It was through Patel and his entourage that Covid-19 spread in Lakshadweep. I have compared Patel as a bioweapon, not the government or the country…. You should understand. What else should I call him?".

On June 10 morning, the BJP staged a protest on the islands seeking action against the filmmaker. Meanwhile, the filmmaker took to Facebook stating that she cannot be silenced. “The BJP leader who filed the case is a Lakshadweep native. When he betrays his homeland, I will keep up the fight for the homeland. Those who are going to be alone tomorrow are those who are betraying the islands..I didn’t raise my voice to back off when they try to oppress me. My voice is only going to be louder again,” Aisha said in the Facebook post.

The Union government and Lakshadweep administration have been facing severe flak for introducing controversial regulations after new Administrator Praful Patel took charge last year. From not allowing individuals who have more than two children to participate in panchayat elections, to reforms that will give administration blatant control over private property, protests are still going on against the slew of regulations and proposals.

(With PTI inputs)


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