BANGALORE: Indian police have charged Amnesty with sedition after several Kashmiris allegedly called for independence for the troubled region at an event organised by the rights group, an officer said Tuesday.
Police in the southern city of Bangalore filed the initial charges against Amnesty following complaints by a Hindu nationalist student organisation whose members recorded the event.
“We have booked a case of sedition and rioting under various sections of the Indian penal code against Amnesty on a complaint that anti-India slogans were raised at an event it organised,” said deputy police commissioner T R Suresh.
“We are investigating the complaint and checking a video to ascertain the charges and identify those who raised the slogans for culpability,” Suresh told AFP.
Sedition charges have been used in the past against supporters of independence for Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.
The case comes at a particularly sensitive time, with large parts of Indian Kashmir under curfew following weeks of deadly violence between protesters and security forces.
Rights campaigners have long accused India’s governments of using the British-era sedition law to clamp down on dissent. Sedition carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, although convictions are rare.
At Saturday’s forum at the United Theological College in Bangalore, Kashmiri families spoke of alleged abuses by security forces.
Members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (All India Students Council), aligned with India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said some Kashmiris taking part had used pro-freedom slogans.
Amnesty India criticised the charges, saying police had been invited to monitor the event which was organised to discuss the rights of those living in the Himalayan region.
“The filing of a complaint against us now, and the registration of a case of sedition, shows a lack of belief in fundamental rights and freedoms in India,” Amnesty International India executive director Aakar Patel said in a statement late Monday.
Indian forces have since 1989 been fighting militant groups seeking either independence for Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan.
Fifty-eight civilians have been killed in the most recent clashes, sparked by the killing in July of a top militant in a gunbattle.