Kovalam: Rights activist Binayak Sen Saturday slammed the blanket use of the sedition law by the government on cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and the anti-Kudankulam protesters, warning this tendency was becoming a threat to free speech.

“The government is not applying its mind while applying the sedition law,” Sen, who himself is battling the same charge, told IANS on the sidelines of the 5th Kovalam Literary Fest, which started here Saturday.

“Dissent is necessary. Without dissent there can be no democracy,” he added.

In April 2011, the Supreme Court granted bail to civil rights activist Binayak Sen, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition and for having links with Naxalites.

According to lawyer and rights activist Vrinda Grover, who was presiding as Sen delivered the 5th K.C. John Memorial Lecture at the event, cases of sedition have been filed against thousands of villagers at a single police station at Kudankulam. According to Grover, this was a record in independent India.

In his lecture, Sen warned on the danger of famine looming over most of India’s most vulnerable sections including Dalits, tribals and minorities. He urged a return to the practices of sustainable agriculture.

Trivedi, an activist of India Against Corruption (IAC) and a Kanpur-based cartoonist, was charged with sedition for drawing cartoons insulting Indian emblems, including the Constitution, during Anna Hazare‘ anti-corruption rally in Mumbai in December 2011. He was arrested Sep 8.

The Bombay High Court had rapped Mumbai police for arresting Trivedi on “frivolous” grounds and added that the action breached his freedom of speech and expression.

In September, Andhra Pradesh police cracked down and arrested hundreds of people protesting against the nuclear power plant being set up by atomic power plant operator NPCIL at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

Villagers have opposed the project for the past one year, fearing for their safety, especially since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan March 2011.