Sophia Lois: Tamil Nadu once again holds up mirror to rest of India on how to fight for one’s free speech

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A court in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday granted bail to a 25-year-old research scholar, Lois Sofia, who was arrested after she called the BJP government ‘fascist’ on a Tuticorin-bound aircraft in the presence of state BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan.

Sophia Lois

The cops, who did not appear keen to arrest the female scholar, were forced to take her into custody after Soundararajan insisted. A local court had then astonishingly sent her to 15-day remand.

Sophia’s arrest and her subsequent judicial remand had sent shockwaves across India with activists, journalists and commentators condemning the authorities for the incredibly disproportionate action in a bid to satisfy the ego of a BJP leader.

Journalist Rifat Jawaid wrote, “It’s one thing for BJP leader to behave insanely (it’s expected of her), but what was the judge thinking while sending the 25-year-old research scholar Lois Sofia to 15-day remand? Seriously?”

Satirist Akash Banerjee wrote, “15 days for raising ur voice??? Perhaps police/courts realised their brazenness. While #Sophia has been granted bail, there’s an important lesson here….No political party is coming to save you. Only massive public outrage can prevent #Fascist forces.”

Sophia was later admitted to a government hospital in Tuticorin as part of the remand procedure owing to stomach pain, reported IANS. Shockingly, Sophia was charged with “public nuisance” under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and for giving an impolite reply to a public servant under the Tamil Nadu City Police Act.

People were quick to express their disgust over the use of what they said was the 19th century colonial law to silence a young Indian woman. An overwhelming number of social media users also wondered how the controversial BJP politician could qualify to be public servant.

One user Hari Menon made a broader point arguing that the authorities’ decision to arrest Sophia conclusively proved her point on fascism. He wrote, “Clever people are busy arguing why Sophia Lois should be jailed. Wise people are done arguing. Because the reaction has already proved her point about fascism. You realise the cost of a culture that privileges cleverness over wisdom most acutely when it makes you look stupid.”

User Manimugdha Sharma agreed, “A woman student has been arrested in Tamil Nadu for saying “down with the BJP’s fascist govt”. The Tamil Nadu BJP chief called her a “terrorist”. Perhaps this is called “saaf neeyat, sahi vikas”? Someone please tell BJP that they just proved Sophia Lois right.”

Another user, Invisible Rubicon, wrote, “BJP’s allure is build upon strongman gusto, dictatorial tendency and male machismo. It’s very encouraging to see all that crumble in front of a determined girl, Sophia Lois.”

Many in Tamil Nadu may complain of their issues often getting neglected by the Delhi-based media outlets because of what’s now being known as tyranny of distance. But, the recent goings on in the southern most Indian state suggest that it’s no longer easy for the political parties or media to turn a blind eye to the issues facing the people of Tamil Nadu.

Whether it’s the Jallikattu stir or Tuticorin anti-Sterlite protests, the state’s politically aware population have forced the rest of India to take notice of issues that have adversely impacted them.

Going by the dominant coverage by media across India on police action against Sophia; Tamil Nadu has once again held up a mirror to the rest of India on how to fight for one’s free speech and civil liberties.

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