Congress on Tuesday joined other political parties in Tamil Nadu supporting the student who raised slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the presence of Tamil Nadu BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan during a flight yesterday.
At a press conference held in New Delhi on 4 September, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that the arrest of Lois Sofia, a 28-year-old research scholar at the University of Montreal, Canada, can be called “fascism”.
“Fascism was on full display when a young lady travelling from Chennai to Tuticorin hit a raw nerve when she allegedly shouted ‘down with fascist BJP government’,” Tewari said.
He said that Tamil Nadu BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan “in a display of unbridled arrogance” lodged a complaint against the girl following which she was sent to 15 days of judicial custody.
“If this is not undeclared emergency, then what is,” the former union minister questioned.
“This was not only an assault on freedom of speech but also on other fundamental rights, assault on the Constitution of India, on democracy, and on idea of India,” the former Union Minister added.
He said that there was a narrative which the BJP and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) are trying to peddle.
“If you question the BJP, you are termed anti-national. If you question the government, then you are called a traitor. Is this the India that we want?” he asked.
“It is becoming clear that battle for 2019 is going to be fought between fascism represented by BJP and democracy represented by progressive, pluralistic forces. It is going to be a battle not just to replace the government but for the very soul of India,” Tewari added.
The Congress leader had before the press conference accused the Tamil Nadu BJP president of reacting to Sofia’s “dissent” in the same way “fascists” do – “by imprisoning those who oppose them”.
“Lois Sofia hit a very raw nerve when she called a spade a spade. The TN BJP President reacted to dissent just as Fascists do by imprisoning those who oppose them. Groundswell of dissent becoming a roar. Condemn her arrest and demand her unconditional release,” Tewari wrote on Twitter before the press conference.
Earlier today, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan extended his support to Sofia who was jailed by Thoothukudi police for shouting “fascist BJP government down, down” on board a flight in Soundararajan’s presence.
In a tweet written in Tamil, the actor-politician said that if raising slogans is a crime then every politician, including himself, is a criminal.
“If slogans are a crime then politicians should be put behind bars for raising slogans (against each other) in public places. We must get Sofia out of jail for the sake of freedom (of expression),” he said.
A Thoothukudi court on Tuesday granted bail to Sofia, who was taken into custody after Soundararajan filed a complaint with the airport police.
Sofia has been charged under IPC Sections 290 (Punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for), 505 (Statements Conducing to Public Mischief) as well as Section 75(1) of the Tamil Nadu City Police Act, 1888.