Govt 'nod' to case against Syed Ali Shah Geelani

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Old 26-Oct-2010
Saini Sa'aB
Govt 'nod' to case against Syed Ali Shah Geelani

New Delhi: Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani could be facing sedition charges for allegedly giving "hate speeches" at a seminar on azadi for Kashmir, held in Delhi a few days ago.

This "hate speech" by the Kashmiri separatist leader led to protests by, among others, the BJP, which accused the government of being soft on the separatists.

"Freedom to speech is a fundamental right, no doubt, but you can't be speaking so much against the country and in such a tone, meaning to excite people who are working against this country," said Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP Spokesperson.

Geelani, however, says the FIR will not make much of a difference. "Already 90 FIRs have been registered against me, this will be the 91st," he said.

Government sources say that if Geelani can be charged, so can author and radical activist Arundhati Roy, who said in Srinagar yesterday that Kashmir was historically not a part of India and accused the government of being a colonising power after independence.

Both Geelani and Roy's comments are well known. Yet, coming in the midst of the Centre's peace efforts in the Valley, these have triggered a ferocious controversy on freedom of speech: Just how far can they go?

"I think people should realise that their freedom of expression must not be construed by other people as abuse of that freedom. If the lines have been crossed, that is being seen and then whatever action needs to be taken will be taken. But I stand for the freedom of expression for all citizens," said Dilip Padgaonkar, Centre's Interlocutor for Kashmir.

There's no case against either as of now, but the issue has already thrown up fundamental questions on the freedom of speech, famously summarised by political philosopher Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

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