Mumbai: The arrest of BJP youth wing activist Priyanka Sharma for posting a morphed picture of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Facebook, is the latest in a series of such arrests in India.
Sharma was arrested for having shared a meme which had a morphed image of Banerjee’s face on Priyanka Chopra’s look at the recent Met Gala.
In 2012, a professor from Kolkata learnt the hard way that sharing TMC or Mamata Banerjee cartoons on social media can land one in jail.
Prof Ambikesh Mahapatra was arrested for forwarding a cartoon of Banerjee to his friends. A professor of chemistry, he was jailed for one night and assaulted by alleged TMC workers later while he was on his way back from work.
In Maharashtra, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi Trivedi was arrested in 2012 for depicting the national emblem and Parliament in ‘bad light’ in his cartoons, triggering a public outcry.
Cartoons by Trivedi included one of the national emblem with lions replaced by blood-thirsty wolves, and another depicting the Parliament building in New Delhi as a huge toilet bowl.
He was charged with sedition and spent four days in jail. This triggered outrage from freedom of expression campaigners. His arrest sparked protests against the government, which was accused of using British colonial-era sedition laws to crack down on dissent.
Also in 2012, two girls were arrested in Maharashtra over their Facebook post questioning the shutdown in Mumbai for Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s funeral with the comment also leading to an attack on the clinic of an uncle of one of them by Sena activists.
The girls–Shaheen Dhada and Renu–were sent to 14-day judicial custody but granted bail within hours after they furnished personal bonds.
Dhada was arrested after she posted comments on the social networking site opposing the shutdown in Mumbai, saying one should not observe bandh for Thackeray’s funeral. Renu, Dhada’s friend, was arrested for ‘liking’ the post.
In Tamil Nadu, folk singer and anti-alcohol campaigner Shiva Raj aka Comrade Kovan was arrested in 2015 and charged with sedition for allegedly criticising then chief minister J Jayalalithaa on the issue of prohibition in one of his songs.
Police had said Kovan allegedly uploaded defamatory content on social media against Jayalalithaa and made insulting remarks on her at a village function.
The arrest had come at a time of growing protests by academics, scientists and artists across the country and was viewed as another instance of intolerance against artistic freedom.