New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday raised the issue of sedition FIR against party's Lok Sabha Shashi Tharoor, asking how a person who has represented India across the world as a Union Minister can be an anti-national.
The FIRs have been filed against Tharoor and six journalists in five states over their alleged "misleading" tweets on the violence and death of a protester during the farmers' tractor parade in Delhi on Republic Day.
Raising the issue of farmers protest and January 26 violence, Congress Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said, "Cases of sedition have been filed against some journalists and MP Shashi Tharoor. A person who was MoS, EAM and represented India across the world, how can he be anti-national? If he is anti-national, then we all are anti-national. How can we call an MP anti-national?"
He also condemned the violence at Red Fort during the farmers' tractor rally on Republic Day, declaring that disrespect to the national flag cannot be tolerated.
"What happened at the Red Fort should not have happened. It was against democracy and law & order. The insult of the national flag at a place from where the PM addresses the nation can not be tolerated. Strict action should be taken against whoever was involved. But at the same time, I want to say that no attempt should be made to implicate innocent farmer leaders in false cases," Azad said.
Participating in the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address in the Rajya Sabha, he asked the government to withdraw the three contentious farm bills without making it a prestige issue.
He suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself should make the announcement on repeal of the bills. Modi was present in the House at the time.
Describing farmers as "annadata", the veteran Congress leader said there was no point in confronting them. Instead, the government should focus on other important issues, including on revival of the economy.
Raising the issue of FIR against Tharoor through a zero hour mention, Digvijaya Singh of the Congress said FIRs had been filed against politicians, journalists and civil society activists under felonious sections in the past few days.
"Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor and journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Mandeep Punia and several others have been charged with sedition on the basis of one person's complaint," Singh said.
Charges of sedition, criminal intimidation, promoting enmity, provocation to break public peace, criminal conspiracy, outraging religious feelings, among others, have been invoked in the FIRs lodged at Gurgaon, Bengaluru and in different districts of Madhya Pradesh.
Singh said sedition was a colonial law that British used to jail freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Ashfaqulla Khan.
"On the basis of similar worked complaints with identical content, FIRs have been registered in different police stations in three states," he said. "This is a planned conspiracy to intimidate independent journalism and free voice. We condemn this." Stating that independent journalism is a pre-requisite for democracy, Singh asked the Home Ministry to withdraw sedition charges.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the three laws -- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed the apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.
(With PTI inputs)