HARYANA POLICE have booked 15 Dalit activists, including two students of Kurukshetra University, under sedition charges for alleged “provocative speeches against the government” during a protest demanding the release of four Dalits arrested for a murder during inter-caste clashes at Paterhedi village in Ambala three months ago. No arrests have been recorded yet, said police sources, adding that the murder victim belonged to the Rajput community. The protesters have alleged that the FIR names as accused all those who briefly met chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Karnal on April 24 to convey their demand for a “fair investigation” in the murder case. Following the murder in March and the arrests, Dalits and rights organisations had held a sit-in from April 21 to April 26 at Karan Park in Karnal to demand action against those behind the alleged attack on Dalits in the village.
The FIR, which the police has not made public, states that during the protest, the villagers raised “provocative speeches against the government” and “disrupted the peace of the local residents”. Police sources said that 15 people have been named as accused in the FIR.
Station House Officer, Karnal Civil Lines, Mohan Lal, confirmed that apart from rioting, unlawful assembly and other charges, sedition charges under Section 124A has also been invoked against the protesters.
Asked about their meeting with Khattar on April 24, one of the organisers of the protest, who did not wish to be named, said, “It was a meeting of a few minutes while the chief minister was on a visit to Karnal and was walking towards his vehicle. Two days later, all those who had met the chief minister were included as accused in the FIR.”
The FIR has also accused the protesters of creating a roadblock in Karnal on April 24, disrupting peace in the area and engaging in a scuffle with police on duty.
By Sofi Ahsan