A woman research scholar was arrested on Monday for allegedly raising slogans against the “fascist” BJP government, when she ran into the party’s State unit president, Tamilisai Soundararajan, on board a flight from Chennai to Thoothukudi.
Lois Sofia, 28, a research scholar at the University of Montreal, Canada, and a native of Thoothukudi, was picked up on the basis of a complaint lodged by Ms. Soundararajan. The two had travelled on the same flight from Chennai to Thoothukudi in the afternoon.
Though a woman police officer and some co-passengers repeatedly requested Ms. Soundararajan to take a lenient view of the incident, considering that Ms. Sofia was a student, the BJP leader stood her ground.
According to the complaint, there were heated arguments between Ms. Sofia and Ms. Soundararajan, who was travelling to Tirunelveli district to attend a party event. Upon arriving at the Thoothukudi airport, the BJP leader alleged that the woman may have the backing of an outlawed organisation. “When I was getting my baggage, she raised slogans against the BJP. I didn’t respond to them considering civility,” Ms. Soundararajan said.
“At the airport, when I asked her whether it was acceptable to talk like that, she said she had the freedom of expression,” she claimed.
“She is saying ‘Down with the BJP fascist government’. How is that freedom of expression?” the BJP leader was seen asking in a clip of the incident, which was widely shared on social media.
Ms. Sofia was later taken to the Pudukottai all-women police station. The police said cases were registered under Sections 505(1)(b) (Intent to cause fear or alarm) and 290 (Public nuisance) of the IPC and Section 75(1)(c) (Impolite reply to public servant) of the Tamil Nadu City Police Act, and that Ms. Sofia was produced before judicial magistrate-III Tamilselvi.
Sources said Ms. Sofia’s father, Dr. Samy of Kanthan Nagar, filed a counter-complaint at the Pudukottai police station against Ms. Soundararajan and others for verbally abusing his daughter and issuing death threats. However, no case was registered on his complaint.
Later at night, Ms. Sofia was taken to hospital following complaints of uneasiness.
Stalin condemns arrest
Condemning the arrest, DMK president M.K. Stalin tweeted, “This action by the Tamil Nadu government to clamp down upon the freedom of speech is highly condemnable. She should be released at once.” He further asked whether the government would arrest everyone who spoke against it, and if it did, how many lakhs of people it would imprison. “I will also say the same thing then. The fascist regime of the BJP should end,” he said.