Actor-politician Ramya (Divya Spandana), who was recently in Islamabad to attend a Saarc Young Parliamentarians Conference, has raked up a controversy for her comments on Pakistan. She referred to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's statement, "going to Pakistan is like going to hell," by responding with "Pakistan is not hell. People there are just like us. They treated us very well."
Soon after a Karnataka-based advocate, K Vittal Gowda, lodged a complaint of sedition against Ramya for her statement, accusing her of insulting India and provoking Indians by appreciating Pakistan.
Ramya's statement has also sparked protests across the state by local ABVP and BJP cadres, who are demanding an apology from her, failing which, they want her to move to Pakistan.
Ramya spoke to Firstpost about her comments and the controversy. Excerpts from the interview below:
Can you elaborate on what exactly happened leading to the sedition complaint filed against you?
I was speaking about my experience at the Saarc conference that I recently attended in Pakistan. I said that I was pleasantly surprised when I went to Pakistan. I had heard such negative things, but when I went there, I realised the people there are just like us. Pakistan is certainly not hell. I haven’t been to hell, perhaps Manohar Parrikar has, but Pakistan is certainly nothing like hell.
Do you think there is a growing intolerance to contrarian opinion and views in our country?
Yes, very much. This wasn’t there a couple of years ago. Ours is a democracy. People are free to express themselves, within certain stated limits of course, as long as you don’t go harming another individual. We have to realise that when we talk of inclusiveness and its complexities, it is very important that every voice is heard. We are entitled to have an opinion. But some people are trying to curb freedom of speech and enforce their opinion on others. They are trying to curb people’s right to express themselves. They think people who have an opinion are anti-national. But they do what they want.
You keep referring to ‘they’? What do you mean by ‘they’? Who are ‘they’?
Certain groups and elements. In my case they would be the ABVP and BJP. They are free to protest against what I said. They are free to express their opinion, but to slap a sedition case is a bit much. In fact, I was surprised when a journalist asked me, 'when you speak against what Parrikar has said, aren’t you speaking against India?' How is that so? I am speaking about an individual.
This is not the first time we have seen such a controversy. We saw a sedition case just a week ago. Perhaps we should do away with the sedition law. If what I said is sedition, then every comment made by anybody can be seen as sedition.
It’s an interesting point you talk about. The debate has been on whether it is time to amend the sedition law
Absolutely. There is a need to redefine the law and clarify it in today’s context, if not do away with it altogether. It doesn’t suit a democracy like ours, because it is too general.
So what next in the sedition complaint filed against you?
I haven’t yet received a copy. The media has got it before I have. Pakistan is not defined as an enemy state in our law. What I have said is not seditious and I feel the complaint will be quashed.