UP: Five Arrested for Anti-PM Cartoon Poster
In yet another instance of muzzling dissent, five people including a printing press owner and an event organiser were arrested for “making assertions prejudicial to national integration” by displaying a caricature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to the Indian Express, the Prayagraj (Allahabad) police detained the accused on July 12, 2022.
The five men have been identified as Aniket Kesari, Abhay Kumar Singh, Rajesh Kesarwani, Shiv and Nanka alias Dharmendra, and said that they were paid around ₹ 10,000 for putting up the poster which has now been removed. The poster criticised the administration for the many lives lost during the farmers’ struggle, the ‘killing of youths’ dreams by contract works’ and rising fuel prices. Singh who owns a printing press worked with event organiser Kesari, contractor Kesarwani and labourers Shiv and Nanka to put up the image on a government hoarding in the city’s Colonelganj area.
Authorities were informed about the poster on July 9 after which they lodged an FIR against unidentified persons for imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration and making statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes. They found the accused using CCTV footage. On questioning, the accused said they were asked to make and put up the poster by Telangana political party member Sai.
Speaking about the offence, the police told the Indian Express that the posters contained “objectionable comments against the Prime Minister” without the permission of the Prayagraj Municipal Corporation.
Of course, this is not the first time that individuals are facing FIRs for criticising Modi or even the current regime. In April, mimicry artist Adil Ali in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh was arrested for mimicking Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The police claimed he made “obscene remarks” and charged him for provoking with intent to riot and engaging in obscene acts or songs, reported Kerala Kamudi.
Similarly, the Indian Express in 2018 reported how Tamil folk singer Kovan was arrested from his home Trichy city for singing criticising Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Kovan sang the song during an event in Trichy to protest the Centre’s failure to form the Cauvery Water Management Board.
It may be observed that in most of these cases, the accused only raised criticisms against the ruling regime in the context of socio-political settings. This is within the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution. However, over time more journalists and dissenters face prosecution for speaking against those in power.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.