Geelani will be punished if sedition charges proved: Chidambaram


New Delhi : After strong criticism by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Home Minister P. Chidambaram Friday said the government would take action against Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani over his speech at a seminar here if it was found he had violated laws against preaching sedition.

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Chidambaram said the proceedings of Thursday’s seminar had been videographed and the footage was being checked to see if there was any violation of law in Geelani’s speech at a seminar ‘Azaadi – The only way’, organized by sympathisers of Kashmiri separatists.

“If it is established prima facie that the laws have been violated, Delhi Police will take action in accordance with the law,” the home minister said in a statement.

The statement comes after BJP leader Arun Jaitley criticised the government for not taking action against Geelani when he and others at the seminar were making speeches that amounted to sedition.

But the home minister said he “strongly” rejected Jaitley’s charge that the government was “looking the other way” when “unacceptable views were being raised in the name of freedom of speech”.

“What happened in Delhi on Thursday when a group of separatists got together to hold a seminar to promote sedition under the nose of the government has stunned the nation. In a democracy, the right to secede cannot be accepted in the garb of right to free speech,” Jaitley said.

He said the right to free speech could not be used to target the country.

“There are two responsibilities and obligations of the state – to prevent such events and to punish the offenders. The government exercised the option of looking the other way which is not available to it,” Jaitley said.

Besides Geelani, sympathizers of Maoists, Sikh separatists and Naga rebel groups Thursday came together and advocated secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India.

Another BJP leader, M. Venkaiah Naidu, said what happened in New Delhi was “shocking”.

“And such a thing was allowed… Allowing separatists to hold a meeting and to make seditious remarks… No government can accept it. How did the government allow this … The government should explain,” Naidu told reporters.