Student-activist's arrest for 'fascist' barb at BJP leader evokes outrage

Tamilisai with Modi Tamilisai Soundararajan (left) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Facebook account of Tamilisai Soundararajan

The arrest of a woman for allegedly shouting anti-BJP slogans in the presence of the chief of the BJP's Tamil Nadu unit on Monday has triggered criticism from opposition parties.

Lois Sofia, an Indian research scholar studying in Canada, allegedly shouted “down with BJP's fascist government” in the presence of Tamilisai Soundararajan while on board a flight from Chennai to Thoothukudi.

Sofia had been vocal in her criticism of the violence at the Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi in which 13 people were killed in police firing in May.

After the flight landed, Soundarajan and Sofia entered into an argument at the Thoothukudi Airport's arrival lounge. Soundarajan lodged a complaint with the police, demanding an investigation into whether any outfit was behind Sofia's actions. Soundarajan claimed a flight was not a public forum to raise protests and said she “felt there was a threat to her life”.

After Sofia was taken into custody, DMK president M.K. Stalin tweeted that he too would say, “Down with BJP's fascist regime” and demanded her immediate release.

Congress national spokesman Manish Tiwari tweeted, “Lois Sofia hit a very raw nerve when she called a spade a spade. The TN BJP President reacted to dissent just as Fascists do by imprisoning those who oppose them. Groundswell of dissent becoming A roar. Condemn her arrest & demand her unconditional release.”

Soundarajan slammed criticism of her action against Sofia in a tweet early on Tuesday. “Surprised to see reactions of few TN leaders in support of her unruly behaviour inside aircraft claiming it as Democratic right. Will they accept a similar situation happens for them during their next air journey inside plane will they or their cadres keep quiet as Democratic right?” she wrote.

(With PTI inputs)