New Delhi: A Tamil Nadu-based writer who was arrested on Monday for shouting slogans against the BJP in front of the party’s state president was granted bail by the Thoothukudi court on Tuesday.
Lois Sofia, a writer who has extensively covered the protests against the Sterlite copper plant, had on Monday shouted “fascist BJP government down, down” at the Tuticorin airport.
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan came to the defence of Sofia and questioned the basis of the charges levelled on her. Batting for free speech, Haasan in a tweet, said that if politicians can roam around freely, despite sloganeering and being critical of each other in public places, then so can the common people.
“If Sofia is a criminal, then politicians are criminals, too. Why aren't they arrested? Having said that, I realise that I, too, am a politician when I say this,” said Kamal Haasan.
பொது இடங்களில் குரல் எழுப்புவதும்,விமர்சிப்பதும் குற்றமெனில் அத்தனை அரசியல்வாதிகளும் கைது செய்யப் படவேண்டிய குற்றவாளிகளே. சுதந்திரப்பறவை சோபியாவை சிறையிலிருந்து பெயிலில் எடுக்கிறோம்.அரசியல்வாதிகள் ஏன் வெளியே திரிகிறார்கள்?— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) September 4, 2018
நானும் அரசியல்வாதிதான் என்பதை உணர்ந்தே சொல்கிறேன்.
He further welcomed Thoothukodi court’s decision to grant Sofia a bail.
The incident took place when Sofia and Tamilisai Soundararajan, BJP’s Tamil Nadu chief, were waiting to collect their luggage after travelling together on a flight. When Sofia shouted the slogan, the BJP leader lost her cool and entered into an argument with Sofia that triggered a political controversy.
Not just Kamal Haasan, but Amma Makkal Munetra Kazhagam chief T.T.V Dhinakaran and Congress leader Manish Tiwari, too, slammed the BJP for Sofia’s arrest. Referring to the incident, he lashed out at the BJP for being ‘intolerant’ to dissent.
“This shows the intolerance of Tamil Nadu BJP. Sophia was only reflecting Tuticorin’s sentiments. Tamilsai should have handled the issue better. This reflects the BJP’S image nationally,” he said.
“Fascism was on display when a young lady, who was travelling from chennai to tuticorin, hit a very raw nerve when she allegedly shouted. BJP President of TN launched a complaint against that girl and under bailable offences, the girl was sent to jail for 15 days,” said Manish Tiwari.
The Congress leader further added that the arrest was not only an assault on freedom of speech, but also on other fundamental rights such as, assault on Constitution of India, on democracy and on the idea of India as a whole. It was fascism playing its roar, he said.
Tiwari alleged that the BJP is trying to push a narrative that there will be only one voice and anyone speaking against it will be put in jail or be called an ‘anti-national’.
“Is this the India we want?” he added.
Sofia was charged with causing public nuisance under section 290 of the IPC and for causing breach of public peace under section 75(1)(C) of the Tamil Nadu City Police Act, 1888.
Reacting to the incident, Soundararajan had said: "A middle-aged lady on seeing me started raising anti-BJP slogans and even followed up to the arrival gate. Her appearance looked threatening, I feel some organisation is behind her."
#WATCH BJP Tamil Nadu President Tamilisai Soundararajan got into an argument with a co-passenger at Tuticorin airport. The passenger who has now been detained had allegedly raised 'Fascist BJP Govt down down' slogan #TamilNadu pic.twitter.com/TzfyQn3IOo— ANI (@ANI) September 3, 2018
DMK chief MK Stalin had also condemned the arrest of Sofia. In a tweet, he accused the state government termed it an act against freedom of speech and democracy. "Sofia should be immediately released. You will have to arrest lakhs of people who raise slogans like this. I will also raise the slogan. ‘BJP fascist govt down down’,” he wrote.
Sofia’s father had a different version of events. He said that he was also travelling in the same flight and his daughter had moved away after raising the slogan once.
“As soon as the flight landed, Tamilisai along with her supporters rounded us up. BJP cadre were abusing us and threatened us.”
“For more than 8 hours, police kept my daughter in station for inquiry. She didn't use any derogatory remarks about Tamilisai or anyone. She just said "Fascist BJP Down down", which is purely freedom of expression. Now, I have lodged complaint against Tamilisai and others for threatening us. So far, no action has been taken,” he said.