How ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ Videos Are Used To Thwart Muslims Contesting Elections, Criminalise Their Supporters

A pattern emerges in cases against Muslims for allegedly chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans. FIRs against Muslim election candidates hindered campaigning, deterred their supporters and damaged the credibility of victorious candidates. Based on complaints, social media videos posted by Hindu right-wing group members, some cases attracted the sedition charge in violation of SC orders.


Giridih & Hazaribagh (Jharkhand): On 20 April, Shakir Hussain, 40, a resident of Paramadih village in the Gandey block of Giridih district, reached the block office to file his nomination for elections to the post of mukhiya, or village chief, of the Dokidih panchayat.

At the gate, his supporters Mohammad Ashiq and Bablu Turi raised slogans in his favour. According to him, Ashiq and Turi shouted, “Shakir Hussain zindabad (long live Shakir Hussain).”

It was noon when he finished filing his nomination, and he left to arrange iftar in nearby mosques and madrasas.

Around 4 pm, a supporter came up to Hussain, and showed him a video being shared rapidly on Facebook. The clip claimed that slogans of  ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ had been  raised at his nomination.

“I told my supporter that when our men had not raised such a slogan, we need not be worried,” Hussain told Article 14. They resumed iftar arrangements.

When he returned home that night from evening prayers at the mosque, there were missed calls on his cellphone, from the station house officer (SHO) and the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) of Gandey.

Hussain assured the SHO that none of his supporters had shouted such a slogan, and promised to cooperate with any investigation.

Soon, DSP Anil Kumar Singh came to his residence with a posse of policemen and asked him to accompany them.

“I went along. At the Gandey police station, I told him to call my supporters who had raised slogans and interrogate them,” Hussain said. “I tried to assure them that no one raised the slogan of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’,  but he was not ready to believe me.”

He was arrested along with four supporters. He said they were “harassed as if we had committed a big crime”. His supporters tried to reason with the policemen, but without luck.

During April and May 2022, two videos from Jharkhand and two from Rajasthan went viral with the claim that during campaigns for local body polls, slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad‘ had been raised by supporters of Muslim candidates.

In the case of Giridih’s Shakir Hussain, he and four others were arrested and booked on charges including sedition, under the British-era section 124 (A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, despite multiple Supreme Court rulings that expressly say the charge of sedition applies only when there is clear and immediate incitement to violence.

Hussain went on to lose the election after spending the entire campaign period behind bars while a video of the purported crime became viral; in another case a complaint was filed by a member of a Hindu right-wing organisation. In one case in Rajasthan, only Muslim participants at a rally were named in the first information report (FIR). The authenticity of the videos was not yet forensically examined in three of the four instances.

In several cases since 2019, police have registered FIRs and made arrests based on complaints and videos of people allegedly shouting anti-India or pro-Pakistan slogans, such as in a Muharram procession in Ujjain in 2021, at an election rally in Dakshina Kannada in 2020, and in the case of a college girl who tried to raise ‘long live all countries’ slogans at a rally in Bengaluru in 2020.

Ali Zaidi, a Supreme Court lawyer, said merely chanting the words ‘Pakistan Zindabad‘ was not a crime in India, “just like it is not a crime to chant ‘America Zindabad, Britain Zindabad, Japan Zindabad’”, especially when the two countries continue to maintain diplomatic relations.

“Last year, the Allahabad high court granted bail to three Kashmiri students who were arrested for raising ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans during a cricket match,” said Zaidi. “The court said India’s unity is not made of bamboo reeds that will bow down to the winds of mere slogans.”

The imposition of the sedition charge in such a case is an abuse of law, he said, citing the 1995 Balwant Singh Vs State of Punjab judgement of the Supreme Court, a case in which two government employees were arrested for raising ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ slogans in 1985.

“The bench of Justice A S Anand and Justice Faizanuddin of the Supreme Court had said that slogan shouting in this way by two people is not a threat to the government and law and order of India,” said Zaidi. “There is nothing in it to incite hatred and violence, and the sedition charge was removed.”

Police Added Sedition Charge As Afterthought

According to Hussain, following a medical test, when he and four co-accused were being taken to court, they were brought back to the Gandey police station unexpectedly, twice. He said sections of law invoked in the complaint seeking registration of FIR were altered.

Article 14 has seen two applications from 20 April, signed by the complainant in the case, government official Wasim Akram, appointed as a magistrate overseeing law and order during the nomination process for panchayat samiti elections in Gandey. The text of both applications was identical,  including the case number, ‘35/22’.

According to this complaint seeking registration of FIR, the case was against nine men—Shakir Hussain, Aashiq, Saddam, Soheb, Taj Ansari, Inamul, Mohammad Azad, Mohammad Sabir, and Mohammad Yakub—and other unidentified accused.

The case invoked sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence commit­ted in prosecution of common object), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 171 C (interfering with the free exercise of any electoral right, offence of undue influence at an election), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

Inquiry officer R K Rajan was entrusted with the responsibility of investigating the case.

A second application bearing the same case number, the same subject matter, and the same name of the investigating officer, sought registration of an FIR under sections 143, 149, 153 A, 171 (C), 120 B and 124A of IPC, the last one an addition.

Asked why the complainant returned to the police station and had the application re-typed in order to add section 124A, Wasim Akram told Article 14 that  “everything is in the application”. He refused further comment.

According to both applications, Shakir Hussain of Dokidih panchayat shouted “Pakistan Zindabad” after filing his nomination, thus “hurting nationalist and religious sentiments”.

Terming this claim of the magistrate as “a blatant lie”, Bablu Turi, 32, a supporter of Shakir Hussain, said slogans were raised only before the nomination. “The slogan I raised was ‘Shakir Hussain Zindabad‘ and not ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.”

He claimed the SHO, the officer in charge of the local police station, Hussain Ansari, was present barely two steps away from him.

The policeman, however, denied that he was present during the sloganeering, and said he arrived after the slogan shouting had died down.

Asked why the sedition charge had been added in a second application, the SHO said he did not know. “The status of the investigation will be known only after talking to the investigating officer,” he said, refusing to answer any further questions.

The investigating officer R K Rajan, police sub-inspector at the Gandey police station, said the SHO and the SDPO (sub-divisional police officer) had said that only they would answer questions related to this case.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here

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