Student in Kerala, India Arrested for Insulting National Anthem

A poster for Salman Zalman in support. Used with permission.

A poster for Salman Zalman in support. Used with permission.

Salman Zalman, a philosophy student, was charged with sedition, and arrested on Aug 21st 2014 from Thiruvanathapuram, capital city of Kerala, India. He was arrested past midnight from his home, charged with allegedly disrespecting and insulting the Indian national anthem and also for a facebook post which he allegedly shared on Aug 15 — the day that marks as India’s Independence day.

Salman and his friends were in a movie theater on Aug 18th when a music video of the national anthem was played, as a custom in few theaters across the country before the movie is screened. Another set of youngsters known to Salman questioned them on disrespecting the anthem. Later, Akhil Kannan from Abhinaya theatre research centre and couple of others filed a complaint against him with the police. There are two versions for the same incident from eyewitnesses in the theater. TC Rajesh Sindhu claims Salman and his friends ‘catcalled’ when the national anthem music video was played. An article in ‘The Media Syndicate’ quotes Sajeevan Anthikkad, another eyewitness and a film maker, who has a different account of Salman and his friends howling at the people who argued with them and not when the national anthem music video was played.

After Salman’s arrest, his whereabouts were kept secret by the police even after repeated inquiries and later by Aug 21st evening an FIR (First Information Report) was recorded against him and a case was registered under IPC (Indian Penal Code) act 124 A and 66 A charging him of sedition and of sending offensive messages through communicative service.

The secrecy and nature behind the arrest for a slight misdemeanor by a student is dubious, when Indian law clearly states that:

Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention. However, when in the course of a newsreel or documentary the Anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand as standing is bound to interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the Anthem.

Salman is a known social activist and also has taken part in many protests against the Government. Many of his vociferous ideas question the hegemony of the Indian State and the violence and injustice it perpetuates as a nation. Other than this, supporters also believe his identity as a Muslim may have worked against his favor.

A solidarity campaign was started demanding his release and now Amnesty International has issued a statement supporting Salman and rebuking the false charges levied against him,

The case against Salman M. should be dropped and he must be released. Indian laws on sedition and online free speech do not meet international human rights standards on freedom of expression. These laws must be urgently repealed.

As soon as Salman was charged, the overtly nationalistic fervor now in full display after the election win of the Hindu right wing nationalist party in India, the facebook users went on a rampage and desecrated Salman's facebook page. Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India has been accused of communal violences in the past between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority to win elections. Representation of Muslim parliament members is at the lowest level in the past six decades.

A sample of such virulent comments, Kannur Kaaran from Kannur, Kerala asks Salman to leave the country itself which had 71 people liking the comment:

ഡാ പീറ ചെറുക്ക നിനക്ക് എല്ലാം ഇന്ത്യയില്‍ നിന്ന് പോകരുതോ , പറയട വന്ദേമാതരം , ജാതിയും മതവും നോക്കാതെ ഞങ്ങള്‍ ഇവിടെ ജീവിക്കും നിന്നെപ്പോലെ ഉള്ള ക്രിമികീടങ്ങള്‍ , ഈ നാടിനു തന്നെ ശാപം , ദേശിയഗാനവും ദേശിയപതാകയും മറ്റ് എന്തിനേക്കാളും ഞങ്ങള്‍ ഇന്ത്യക്കാര്‍ക്ക് പ്രിയം , നീ ചെവിയില്‍ നുള്ളിക്കോ , നിന്റെ ഈ ഫേസ്ബുക്ക് ഐഡി എങ്കിലും ചുരുങ്ങിയത് ഞങ്ങള്‍ ഭാരത മക്കള്‍ പൂട്ടിക്കും , ഭാരത് മാതാ കീ ജയ് , ഒരൊറ്റ ജനത ഒരൊറ്റ ഇന്ത്യാ

Hey, Why don’t you leave the country. We live without any caste or religion when vermins (sic) like you are the curse of this country. We love our national anthem and our flag and be warned at least we will close down this facebook id of yours. Salute to India, Salute to one nation.

Students at HCU Hyderabad protesting the arrest of Salman. Used with Permission.

Students at HCU Hyderabad protesting the arrest of Salman. Used with Permission.

Amidst all this cacophony by the facebook users, many people from various parts of the country grouped to organize various events to get Salman released. A #freesalman tag was created in Facebook and a JusticeForSalman forum was also formed, chaired by the eminent journalist and human right activist BRP Bhaskar.

Most of the Salman supporters if they have a Muslim name, faced a different problem as KT Hafis puts it in his post,

സല്‍മാനെ പിന്തുണക്കുന്നതിന്റെ പേരില്‍ എന്നോട് പാക്കിസ്ഥാനില്‍ പോകാന്‍ ഉപദേശിക്കുന്നവര്‍ പിള്ള, നായര്‍ തുടങ്ങിയ ജാതിപേരുകള്‍ ഉള്ള ഫെയ്സ് ബുക്ക് പ്രൊഫൈലുകള്‍ ആവുന്നത് തികച്ചും യാദൃശ്ചികമാണോ ?

Because I am supporting Salman, most of the people are asking me to go to Pakistan. And most of them have upper caste Hindu names. Is that just a coincidence?

Muhammed Pm, an Engineer from Trishur talks about the injustice of Salman’s arrest,

സല്മാനെതിരെ നിലവിലുള്ള കേസുകൾ നിലനില്കാൻ സാധ്യത ഇല്ലാത്തതിനാൽ തീവ്രവാദി മുദ്ര ചാർത്താനുള്ള ശ്രമങ്ങള നടക്കുന്നുവെന്നു പത്രത്തിൽ വായിച്ചു. മനുഷ്യാവകാശ പ്രവർത്തനങ്ങളിൽ പങ്കു കൊള്ളുന്നതും തെരുവ് നാടകത്തിൽ അഭിനയിച്ചതു UAPA ക്കെതിരെ പ്രതികരിച്ചതും ഒടുക്കം BRP ഇടപെട്ടു എന്നത് പോലും സല്മൻ തീവ്രവധിയാണ് എന്നതിന്റെ സൂചനകളത്രേ.!!! ഇത്തരം ഭരണകൂട നെറികേടുകൾക്ക് നേരെ കണ്ണടക്കാൻ മനസ്സില്ലാത്തത് കൊണ്ട് ആയിരിക്കണം f*** സ്റ്റേറ്റ് എന്ന് സല്മൻ എഴുതിയത് .

Read from newspapers, since the cases against Salman won’t stand a chance in a court, the case sheet against Salman is now twisted as him being a terrorist. The evidences against him being a terrorist according to the state is strange. His involvement in Humanitarian activities, acting in a street drama against UAPA and also BRP Bhaskar getting involved in the case all are the new evidences. Maybe Salman was indeed protesting against such injustice meted out by the state when he wrote “f*** state” on his facebook wall.

Shan Mhd a student from Hyderabad wonders whether he is a traitor too in the current context,

സാംസ്കാരിക കൂട്ടായ്മയുടെ പേരും പറഞ്ഞ് സന്നാഹങ്ങളുമായി ഇറങ്ങി ഇതൊന്നുമില്ലാത്ത ഒരു ചെറുപ്പക്കാരനെതിരെ ഗൂഢാലോചന നടത്തി കേസ് കൊടുക്കുക. അവനെ അകത്താക്കിയിട്ട് അവന്‍റെ ഫേസ്ബുക്ക് വാളില്‍ പോയി അവന്‍റെ കുടുംബത്തിന് പറയുക. ദേശീയഗാനം ചൊല്ലിക്കൊടുക്കുക.സിനിമ കാണാനുണ്ടായിരുന്ന പെണ്‍കുട്ടിയെ ബലാല്‍സംഗം ചെയ്തു കളയുമെന്ന് ഭീഷണിപ്പെടുത്തുക. ദേശീയതക്ക് അപരന്‍റെ സ്വത്വത്തെയും സാമൂഹിക പൊസിഷനെയും ഇത്രയും ഭയാനകമായി അവഹേളിച്ചു കൊണ്ടേ നിലനില്‍ക്കാനാവൂവെങ്കില്‍ ഞാന്‍ ദേശദ്രോഹിയാണ്. ദേശദ്രോഹിയാണ്.ദേശദ്രോഹിയാണ്…!!

Donning a mask of cultural intimacy, they slapped a case against a student who is innocent. Then later the same people vandalize his facebook wall and even threaten him and his family. Many are reciting the national anthem on his wall and even threatening to rape the girl who was with the group. If nationalism is to gravely insult the social identity of a human being, then I am a traitor, a traitor, a traitor.

KP Aravindan who works at Calicut Medical College, poignantly rebukes the traitor charges,

OK. He didn't stand up for the National anthem. He expressed his serious doubts in his facebook page regarding the meaning of independence on independence day. So what? Does that make him a traitor? I thought traitors were those who betrayed their fellow citizens by blackmarketing, taking bribes, spreading disaffection by communal rumors, instigating riots that kill people and render many homeless, colluding with an enemy state etc. I didn't think speaking out or acting according to one's conscience and opinions however misguided it may be belonged to this category.
Will a person with a Hindu name be treated thus?
Free Salman immediately!

Henry David Thoreau on his essay on Civil Disobedience argued that citizens should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. A society that has only obeyed in fear, Salman's arrest triggers the vital discourse about the nation and it's draconian laws against freedom of speech and ideas of its citizens, unfortunately at the cost of his freedom.


  • indian

    see his facebook post and comment later..we dont give a fuck whether he is muslim or hindu or what ever…Insult is insult and he will be punished.Freedom to talk is not a right to fuck around ..i used the language deliberately as you dont deserve less than this.

    • Ansac

      Should UK police arrest all the British Asians, who make fun of English cricketers and disrespect British traditions. Insult is insult?????
      Wake up otherwise India will become like North Korea

      • Indian

        Then what you need..leave this scumbags free.If brits not taking actions against those who insulting their Queen or who ever they considering their national pride that is their business.that doesn’t mean we should let these thugs free,Sad thing is people trying to mix religion in this matter.Whether this is Santhosh or Salman or Sakaria..dont give a damn.

  • […] Kerala, India, student and social activist Salman Zalman was arrested on charges of seditionfor allegedly disrespecting the Indian national anthem. A solidarity campaign is calling for his […]

  • Rahul Nath

    National anthem needs to be respected. You need not be a rocket scientist to understand that. Even a First grade boy in School will tell you that . If it is just 1 man doing it , it could be understood as a foolish act by a fool. But look at thousands supporting him. #freesalman Tag,JusticeForrSalman Forum ..What else..Such ignorant people who hate India get maximum support from Indians… What is happening ????

  • Dileep

    Salman should be punished not for being an anti-national, but for being the stupidest anarchist in India. It is sad that a people’s activist like Salman had to end up in jail for his own poor judgement.

    • Mojo Jojo

      And I hope somebody sentences you to life in prison. It’s just some much fun to see others suffer, isn’t it?

      • Dileep

        Read my comment again… I said, I am sad to see it happen. Did I say punish him for life for being stupid?

        Now why do you hope I get thrown in prison for life?… For your satisfaction?… Are you the real Mojo Jojo?

  • arvnd

    for those who are mixing religion into this……it was a muslim police officer who arrested that guy….so please don’t look these issues through the lens of religion…..

  • Matthew Woods

    While students are forbidden to do everything they want they will be angry on everyone and protest against the system. I understand that the rules and limits should be set to them and their behavior. But they should be discussed and set with them, counting their opinions. I know that recently they protest or getting assistance with their home work as there is so much of it to do for the,m and they are forbidden to use services as Custom Essay Writing Service to get help with college papers. Why couldn’t they apply to them when they are in a hurry? I think that it is clearly humanely.

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