After actor and model Aisha Sultana was booked under sedition charges for saying that the Modi government had attacked Lakshadweep using Chinese coronavirus a ‘bio-weapon’, some media outlets twisted her remarks to claim that the sedition charge was slapped for criticising the administrator of the Union Territory. While several media houses reported correctly what she had said, some of them including Indian Express, The Print, Al Jazeera and others chose to distort her comments, to make her appear innocent.
On 11th June, while reporting on the case filed against Aisha Sultana, Indian Express said that the action was taken because she had called Lakshadweep administrator Praful K Patel a bio-weapon. Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint had declared in the headline itself that the case was filed for calling Praful Patel a bio-weapon.
The same was claimed by Al Jazeera, which reported that she had called the territory’s administrator a “bio-weapon”. Other sites like The Firstpost, Scroll etc had also made the same claim.
The media reports chose to blindly follow the version of Aisha Sultana, who had claimed that her allegation was against the administrator, after her comments were widely condemned by people.
On June 8, Aisha had posted a comment on her Facebook claiming that in the TV debate, she had called administrator Patel a bio-weapon, and didn’t blame the union government for the spread of Covid-19 in the islands. She claimed that due to some technical difficulties in the channel, her comments were not heard properly, and it was mistaken that she had said the Indian govt used bio-weapon against people in Lakshadweep.
Justifying her comments, she had written, “I have felt Patel acted as a bio-weapon with his policies. It was through Patel and his entourage that Covid-19 spread in Lakshadweep. I have compared Patel as a bio-weapon, not the government or the country”.
However, from the video of the debate on Malayalam channel Media One TV on June 7, it is clear that she was talking about the union government while using the bio-weapon remark, not Praful K Patel. During the debate, she is heard referring to co‑panellist BJP leader B G Vishnu saying that the union govt is working for the development of the islands. She says ‘I heard Vishnu sir say that Centre is taking care of the Islands as it is lying isolated. Is it because of this taking care that Lakshadweep, where there were zero cases, is now brought to a pathetic situation of reporting at least 100 cases daily?’
She then goes on to say that the centre used the Covid-19 as a bio-weapon against the people in the islands. She said, “What these people have used is bio-weapon. I can say very precisely. It is clearly a bio-weapon that centre has used. That is what they used in a place which had zero Covid cases.”
BJP’s Vishnu opposed these comments and asked her to take back the serious allegations she made against the Modi government. But she didn’t relent and continued the same accusations. She added, “if attempts have been made to inject Covid to a place where there was no Covid, it means it is bio-weapon only. You say you are taking care, you know very well this is bio-weapon only”.
Thus, she said several times that centre used the Coronavirus as bio-weapon against people of Lakshadweep.
To this even the anchor Nishad Rawther objected, he said that that the allegation that a government used bio-weapon against its own citizens is a serious one and asked her what information she has to level such an allegation. To this Aisha replied that there is already allegations going on that Coronavirus may be developed by China as a bio-weapon against other countries. She reiterated that as earlier there were zero Covid cases in Lakshadweep, it must have been used as a bio-weapon because there are rising cases now.
Vishnu continued to object to her comments throughout the discussion, asking her to withdraw the statements, while anchor Nishad Rawther asked if she is willing to take the risk for what she was saying.
After her comments created a furore, she posted on next day on Facebook that she was using the bio-weapon remark for Patel, and didn’t say anything about the union govt. But the video of the debate shows what she had actually said.
While the mainstream media houses are trying to defend Aisha by repeating her claims, a reporter on NDTV had inadvertently confirmed that she was accusing the centre of using Covid-19 as a bio-weapon against Lakshadweep residents.
While talking to the NDTV anchor on the issue, reporter Sneha Mary Koshy said that Aisha had alleged that centre had used bio-weapon, and Patel’s actions were causing rise in Covid-19 cases.
From the original video of the debate and the version of the NDTV reporter, it can be concluded that Aisha accused the Modi govt of using Covid-19 as a bio-weapon against people in Lakshadweep. She didn’t say Patel is a bio-weapon, but later claimed the same after the outrage on her comment. The video shows there were no technical issues with it as she had claimed, and her voice was clearly audible.
The difference between calling the administrator a bio-weapon and saying the central govt used a virus as bio-weapon against citizens is huge, and that is why she is trying to change her comments, which is being helped by the media. Calling Patel a bio-weapon won’t attract serious charges, the administrator may file a defamation suit, but the authorities can’t file a sedition charge, as criticising a person is not sedition. PM Modi has been called Hitler, mass murderer and worst by left liberals and Islamists, but none has faced sedition or such charges as it is a criticism of a person.
But saying that the government is attacking its own people using a bio-weapon is a very serious charge, and the sedition charge can be justified in this case. Because this amounts to inciting the people of Lakshadweep against the union govt using false accusations, which is a valid ground for the sedition charge. This is not a criticism of a person, but a serious and false allegation against the govt.