Rangoli protest
The minor boy said he learnt the slogans during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and NRC | Photo for representational purpose only: Twitter

Father of 11-year-old who raised slogans at PFI rally in Alappuzha arrested

The father of an 11-year-old who raised ‘provocative’ slogans at a Popular Front of India (PFI) rally in Alappuzha, Kerala, was taken into custody on Saturday. As the police registered the case, the child and his family were said to be missing.

The minor boy, who studies in Class 6, said he learnt the slogans during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), according to The Indian Express report. Addressing the media, the child’s father said: “This was a slogan he learnt from the CAA-NRC protest. He has given this call at other places also. I don’t know why it’s a huge problem now.”

‘Slogans not against any religion’

The father added the slogans were not against any religion but only against the Sangh Parivar. “I don’t know what mistake he has done that a small child is being harassed like this. What he said was not against Hindus or Christians, it was against Sangh Parivar,” the report added. He said he was with his son when the slogans were raised and that their entire family had gone for the march.

Also read: Probe begins into minor boy raising hate slogans at PFI rally

He said the family went on a tour and it was only after they left that they got to know about the controversy. He also insisted he was not a PFI member but participated in the outfit’s major programmes.

The family returned to their house in Ernakulam district on Saturday from where the father was taken into custody by the police, The Indian Express report said.

The man said he returned on his advocate’s direction. The child, meanwhile, will be questioned by the police according to procedures in the Juvenile Justice Act.

20 people arrested

So far, 20 people — including Alappuzha PFI district president Navas — have been arrested by the police in the case. The Kerala High Court, too, orally observed “what is happening in this country” as it considered a writ petition which had sought a stay on marches and rallies by PFI and Bajrang Dal on May 21 in Alappuzha.

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan said if a member of a rally raises provocative slogans, the organisers should also be held responsible. “If a rally is conducted, it is the duty of the leaders to control the members of the rally,” the court observed.

Vijayan govt blamed

While the ruling CPI(M) did not comment on the incident, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) accused the government of going soft on extremist elements to protect their vote bank.

Congress legislator and Opposition Leader V D Satheesan said “extremist elements” have got the courage to make such provocative slogans from the “political tactics” played by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “He is appeasing majority fundamentalism as well as minority fundamentalism. Kerala is now facing the fallout of that politics known as social engineering. Those who have worked behind the slogans raised by the boy, should be brought to book,’’ Satheesan said.

Also read: Kerala HC grants bail to ex-MLA P C George in hate speech case

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor wrote on Twitter: “The video of this event & media reports have shocked Kerala. Hate speech & intimidating slogans are deplorable irrespective of the politics behind them or the religion of those using them. Opposing communalism means opposing the communalism of all sides.”

BJP state president K Surendran said Vijayan government has “let loose the extremists eyeing their votes” at Thrikkakara by-election.

KCBC spokesperson Fr Jacob Palackappilly said: “Government reluctance to take suo motu action on the issue is disturbing. Such communal appeasement does not augur well for the security of the country and future of the state.”

DYFI, the youth wing of CPI(M), in a statement said the slogans raised by the boy was part of PFI agenda to communally divide Kerala. “It is disturbing and serious that the mind of a minor boy has become a factory of hate campaigns against other religions. Kerala society should maintain vigil against such divisive forces,” it said.

Also read: Twin political murders rock Alappuzha; prohibitory orders for two days

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