Samajwadi Party (SP) leader and Member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly Azam Khan has found himself at the centre of controversy again after being booked for sedition on Saturday, 1 July, for remarks allegedly in disrespect of the Indian Army.
On 27 June, addressing a rally in Rampur, Khan said excesses by security forces had led to “women in some places chopping off the private parts of Army men”. He said soldiers were being beaten up by women in conflict-areas of Kashmir, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Jharkhand.
Khan’s comments evoked outrage. A case was filed on behalf of Vishwa Hindu Parishad member Anil Pandey at Chandpur police station in west Uttar Pradesh under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.
Khan, however, argued that his comments were taken out of context and said he did not intend to insult the Army.
Khan’s controversial comments
In a gathering in his home district of Rampur, Khan said excesses by security forces were “compelling women militants to chop the private parts of jawans as revenge … Many people mutilate heads or chop off hands, but in this instance, they did not have any complaint with the head, the hands or the foot. Women militants mutilated the private parts of the soldiers and took them away. The body part that they had a grievance with, they chopped it off. It sends a big message, something that entire India should be ashamed of.”
The comments invited widespread criticism, particularly on social media. No less that three cases have been filed against Khan, the most notable one being under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, accusing Khan of sedition.
Section 124A reads thus: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
Not the only case filed against Khan
Besides the aforementioned FIR, another case was registered against Khan in Rampur by Akash Saxena, son of former BJP minister Shiv Bahadur Saxena. In this case, Khan was booked under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).
Saxena said Khan’s comments dented the “morale of the Army” and their sentiment towards the constitution, and his words were therefore, “anti-constitutional, anti-army and anti-India.”
Meanwhile, Bajrang Dal leaders in Meerut also filed a complaint against Azam Khan.
In clarification, Khan pointed to newspaper clippings with news stories of female Naxals in Sukma, Chhatisgarh having mutilated the private parts of six jawans.
He said, “The meaning of my words has been misconstrued. The media published this news. If it was so sensitive, why was it not censored, why did the TV telecast it … How can the Army’s morale fall because of me? I am nobody. The Army’s morale fell when Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Pakistan, while our soldiers were being beheaded.”