Just days after a group of activists raised slogans supporting Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) scholar Sharjeel Imam at the Mumbai LGBT Pride solidarity meet that was held at Azad Maidan on February 1, Mumbai Police have registered sedition charges against them.
The activists raised the slogan, “Sharjeel tere sapnon ko, hum manzil tak pahunchayenge,” (Sharjeel we will make your dream come true) at the Mumbai Pride which was turned into a solidarity meet instead of the annual Queer Azaadi March (QAM) or LGBT pride parade this year. Mumbai Police had earlier denied permission to conduct the parade on it usual route from August Kranti Maidan to Girgaum Chowpaty, after rumours were circulated via whatsapp that slogans could be raised against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the government, at the parade. The QAM organisers then agreed to hold a solidarity meet at Azad Maidan on the condition that all slogans raised will be related to queer concerns.
However, a group of activists got together and started chanting the allegedly seditious slogans. Sharjeel Imam, a JNU students had in a viral video made allegedly seditious statements against the integrity of India. He remains in custody of the Delhi Police.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Police have now filed charges against the activists chanting or-Sharjeel slogans under sections 124(A) (sedition), 153 (B) (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. Transgender activist Urvashi Churawal has been named as a key accused in the case.
Police stepped up operations after both, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and BJP leader Kirit Somaiya applied pressure. Somaiya had threatened to hold a protest if an FIR was not filed in the case. The QAM organisers have however, distanced themselves from the slogans. In an official statement released online QAM said, “We, Queer Azadi Mumbai (QAM), the organizing body of the Mumbai Pride Solidarity Gathering 2020, dissociate ourselves from and strongly condemn the radical slogans in support of Sharjeel and/or any other slogans against the integrity of India at the gathering on Feb 2 2020 at Azaad Maidaan, Mumbai.” They added, “It was irresponsible and potentially detrimental and none of the individuals raising these slogans were part of the organizing process or permissions process with us. These slogans, performances and protests happened abruptly and precipitously without the consent of the organizers.”
QAM insists that the slogans were raised at a distance from the main stage and that the organisers could not hear them clearly. The statement says, “However, as soon as the organizers realized that some sloganeering was inaudible on the stage, the organizers proactively used their microphones to stop all activities and clearly advised all the attendees that any sort of speech/slogan/communication within the gathering must happen from the stage and with official consent of the organizing members.”