On June 2, Bengaluru police had registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the well known journalist, and columnist who expressed his solidarity with those protesting the killing of George Floyd. Patel who has always spoken up for human rights of the marginalised in India too, and worked for human rights when he headed Amnesty International India, in his latest Twitter post had said: “We need protests like these. From Dalits and Muslims and Adivasis. And the poor. And women. World will notice. Protest is a craft.”
We need protests like these. From Dalits and Muslims and Adivasis. And the poor. And women.
World will notice. Protest is a craft. https://t.co/6btWiMtbOX
— Aakar Patel (@Aakar__Patel) May 31, 2020
He was commenting on a peaceful protest in Denver, Colorado that was protesting against the killing of George Floyd. However, Bengaluru Police chose to take Aakar’s Twitter post as a case of ‘public mischief’ and alleged that he was engaging in provocation with intent to cause riot. Amnesty India has also stated that Patel had in fact urged people to peacefully protest for their rights.
In the statement, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, Avinash Kumar has said, “The FIR filed by the Bengaluru police against Aakar Patel is just another example of how the right to dissent is being increasingly criminalised in the country.” Amnesty has demanded that “Bengaluru police must stop abusing its authority and put an end to the intimidation and harassment of Aakar Patel for exercising his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.”
“People of this country have the right to agree or disagree with those in power, and to express these opinions in peaceful protests – without fear or unlawful interference. Peacefully protesting against the government is not a crime. Not agreeing with the policies of those in power does not make you a traitor either,” stated Amnesty India.
Aakar Patel has often been targeted by right wing forces, especially active in Karnataka and has been on the list of what online trolls call the ‘tukde tukde gang’. He, when he was the head of Amnesty India, has also dealt with sedition charges being slapped on the organisation in 2016. Portal India.com had then written on how Aakar Patel, had been one the first ‘anti-nationals’ according to right-wing members. The portal reported that for Patel, who had taken over as head of Amnesty India in 2015, the charges of sedition against the organisation “proves the kind of campaign launched across the nation to curb freedom of speech and expression”. Patel was quoted as saying, “For merely organizing an event that talks about the violation of constitutional values and urges the states to uphold fundamental rights, we are being branded as seditious and slapped with section 124-A (of IPC).”
He had been mercilessly trolled online by those aligning themselves with right-wing politics, allegeding that Patel was a Muslim. He is not, but the attack exposed what the right wing at large thought about minorities in the country. Not much has changed in 2020, Patel, like many other writers and activists, continues to be targeted for expressing opinions, and for standing up in solidarity with the oppressed, and against the state might. His day on social media continues as usual, the news links and opinions continue to flow with vigour.