Filmmaker Aisha Sultana appears before Lakshadweep police

Filmmaker Aisha Sultana, who is facing a sedition charge over her “bio-weapon” remark against Lakshadweep administrator Praful K Patel, appeared before the Lakshadweep Police Sunday.

Sultana’s plea for anticipatory bail in the case was accepted by the Kerala High Court on Thursday, but she was asked to appear before the police. The Kerala High Court granted interim anticipatory bail for a week to the filmmaker in the sedition case and has reserved its final order.

Following the questioning, she said to reports that the police had told her that she would be summoned for further questioning if there was any requirement in connection with the case.

Sultana reached the police headquarters along with her lawyer.

On 11 June, in the wake of criticisms against Lakshadweep Union Territory administrator Praful Khoda Patel and contentious regulations on the islands, the Kavaratti Police registered a case of sedition against Sultana, who is also one of the dissenters at the helm of the protests, over her remarks against Patel’s mismanagement of COVID-19 pandemic in the islands.

The FIR was registered under the charges of IPC 124A (Sedition) and 153B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) on the basis of a written complaint by C Abdul Khader Haji, the chief of BJP unit in Lakshadweep.

Aisha Sultana had participated in Malayalam news channel Media One’s prime time debate on the issue on June 7, where she made the remarks against COVID-19 mismanagement of current Lakshadweep administration.

“The island was COVID-free until Patel came leading to the outbreak of the disease,” she said, reacting to the hate campaigns and police complaints against her. She said that despite being aware of the dilapidated healthcare system on the island, the administrator paid no heed and demoted the medical director. “I compared him to a bio-weapon,” she said, referring to the statements she made in the show. “My comments were not made against the Union Government. I implied the biological impacts of the regulations heralded in by the administrator on the native population,” she added.

Lakshadweep had remained COVID-free throughout 2020 because of the strict guidelines. But Patel is accused of exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis in Lakshadweep after he changed the guidelines in January by allowing anyone entry into the islands with a negative RT-PCR report obtained 48 hours before their travel. A week after the rules were changed, the territory reported its first coronavirus case on January 17.

Condemning the attack on dissent, many politicians, activists and celebrities in the islands and mainland, brought out the statements vowing solidarity to the filmmaker’s stance.

Aisha Sultana, who has worked with several Malayalam filmmakers including Lal Jose, is making her independent directorial debut with ‘Flush.’

A woman filmmaker is a first in Lakshadweep’s history. Aisha has previously worked as an associate director on the Asif Ali film Kettyolaanu Ente Malaakha.

Lakshadweep newly-appointed administrator Patel’s recent decisions and draconian regulations have caused discontent in the Muslim-majority islands.

He has been accused of implementing Goonda Act in a place where least number of violent crimes reported in the country, banning beef products in a place the meat is widely consumed, demolishing fishermen’s sheds in coastal areas for violating the Coast Guard Act and revoking restrictions on the consumption of alcohol.

The former Gujarat BJP Minister of State for Home Praful Patel said to be very close to the Prime Minister’s office, RSS and BJP leadership.