BJP fascism condemned as Montreal University research scholar arrested in India for shouting slogan

Manish Tewari

New Delhi (IANS): The Congress on Tuesday described the arrest of a Tamil Nadu woman research scholar for allegedly raising slogans against the state BJP President as an act of “fascism,” which was clear evidence that there was an “undeclared emergency” in the country.

“Fascism was on full display when a young lady travelling from Chennai to Tuticorin hit a raw nerve when she allegedly shouted ‘down with fascist BJP government’,” Congress leader Manish Tewari told media here at a press conference.

He said that Tamil Nadu BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan in a display of unbridled arrogance lodged a complaint against the girl following which she was sent to 15 days of judicial custody.

“If this is not undeclared emergency, then what is,” the former union minister questioned.

“This was not only an assault on the freedom of speech and expression but it was also an assault on the constitution, democracy and idea of India,” he said.

Tewari was referring to the arrest of Lois Sofia, 28, a research scholar at the University of Montreal, Canada, and a native of Thoothukudi in the state.

Sofia was arrested after shouting a slogan against the BJP on a Tuticorin-bound aircraft in which state BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan was also travelling.

On Monday, on a complaint by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, police arrested Sofia, 25, and the court remanded her in judicial custody for 15 days. The arrest as well as the court ruling was widely condemned in the state.

The young woman was taken to a government hospital in Tuticorin as part of the remand procedure and was admitted owing to stomach pain.

Sofia was charged with “public nuisance” under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and for giving impolite reply to a public servant under the Tamil Nadu City Police Act.

Soundararajan told reporters on Tuesday that Sophia had posted on social media that she would shout slogans against the BJP.

Sofia was seated behind BJP leader Soundararajan in the flight on Monday.

According to Soundararajan, the young woman said it was her right to raise slogans and the BJP leader alleged that she uttered “unspeakable words” at the airport lounge.

Sofia, said to be pursuing research in Canada, was returning home when she spotted the BJP leader. Suddenly, she got up and shouted: “Facist BJP government, Down down.”

On landing at Tuticorin, the BJP leader got into a verbal spat with the student and lodged a complaint with the police who arrested her.

A court in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday granted bail to Sofia.

Welcoming the bail granted to Sofia, DMK President M.K. Stalin urged the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday to withdraw the case filed against her and also take action against BJP members who had threatened her family.

Stalin said that in a democracy every individual had a right to criticise the government.

Referring to the arrest of five social activists across the country last week, Tewari said, “This was completely uncalled for. This was the second case within a week.”

“This is a pattern which has been playing out repeatedly and systematically since 2014,” he alleged.

Listing the incidents of muzzling dissent, the Congress leader said the assault on the students of Film Institute of Pune, events that led to the suicide of Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula, derecognition of Periyar study circle in IIT (Indian Institute of Technology)-Madras, stopping the screening of a Kashmiri film in IIT-Delhi, vilification campaign against Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), etc. are among many such instances.

He said that there was a narrative which the BJP and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) is trying to peddle. “If you question the BJP, you are termed anti-national. If you question the government, then you are called a traitor. Is this the India that we want?” he asked.

“It is becoming clear that battle for 2019 is going to be fought between fascism represented by BJP and democracy represented by progressive, pluralistic forces. It is going to be a battle not just to replace the government but for the very soul of india,” Tewari added.