October 17, 2017 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
New Delhi: The charges against writer and a staunch critic of the caste system, Kancha Ilaiah, due to his book, are an absurd assault on the right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International India said today.
Kancha Ilaiah’s book is titled “Samajika Smugglerlu Komatollu” (Social smugglers – Komatis), in which he challenges the caste system in India and criticises the social and economic capital enjoyed by dominant castes that allows discrimination to prevail.
On 12 October, a complaint was filed in a local court in Telangana stating that the book had hurt the sentiments of the Vyasa community. On instructions of the court, a case has been registered against Kancha Ilaiah, under articles 153A(a), 153B(a), 295-A and 509 of the Penal Code. These include accusations of promoting enmity between different social groups and trying to maliciously outrage religious beliefs. He has also been charged under Section 3 of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. If convicted, he could face up to five years in jail.
“The charges brought against Kancha Ilaiah expose the dangerous environment that academics and other human rights defenders face in India, in which the right to freedom of expression is constantly under attack”, said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India. “The Supreme Court of India had already dismissed a petition to ban his book and reaffirmed the right to freedom of expression. The authorities must drop these charges against Kancha Ilaiah and refrain from pursuing further cases that stem solely from the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.
Kancha Ilaiah has previously faced charges that stemmed solely from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. In September 2017, a case had also been filed at Kanigiri police station under similar accusations.
The publishing of his book has also sparked a range of threats and attacks against him. On 23 September, a group of people attacked his car and he had received several threats, including a phone call threatening to cut his tongue off. He had filed a complaint at Osmania police station, but so far the authorities have not implemented any protection measures.
“The authorities have an obligation to protect freedom of expression and should thoroughly investigate these threats and attacks, bringing those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice”, said Asmita Basu.
Other writers had faced similar threats and harassment, some have even been killed. Early in August, the Jharkhand state government banned a book by activist and writer Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar. Gauri Lankesh, M. M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar were killed in recent years, following several threats and attacks.
“Threats and harassment against those who write against the caste system cannot become the order of the day. The authorities must put an end to the atmosphere of fear and impunity by effectively protecting the right to freedom of expression,” said Asmita Basu.
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