Indian politician jailed for posting image of Modi with a begging bowl

Published January 28, 2019
Sathiyaraj Balu was arrested after he posted a morphed picture of Modi with a begging bowl. — AFP/File
Sathiyaraj Balu was arrested after he posted a morphed picture of Modi with a begging bowl. — AFP/File

An Indian politician who posted a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a begging bowl on Facebook has been arrested, police said on Monday, in the latest example of what critics say is a clampdown on free speech.

It follows more than a dozen similar arrests last year in a clampdown on those attacking the Hindu nationalist premier's policies or ideology.

Sathiyaraj Balu, a member of a local pro-Tamil party, was arrested on Saturday after he posted a morphed picture of Modi with a begging bowl a day ahead of the PM's visit to the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

He has been charged with intent to disrupt the peace and to create ill-will between classes, after an official complaint was made by local members of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“We received a complaint against him (Balu) and took action as per the law,” a senior police officer in the district told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Balu is being remanded in custody pending a police investigation.

A television reporter is in jail in the northeastern state of Manipur for alleged posts that also criticised Modi and the state's chief minister Biren Singh.

Kishorechandra Wangkhem was arrested in December under a Draconian law that allows authorities to detain anyone for up to a year without trial.

He had accused Singh of promoting right-wing Hindu ideology in the region and called him a “puppet” of Modi and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a hardline Hindu group.

Police in September charged the main opposition Congress party's social media chief Divya Spandana with sedition, after she tweeted a meme that showed an altered image of Modi's statue with a placard emblazoned with “thief”.

Critics say such arrests are alarming in the world's largest democracy.

“There has been a worrying crackdown on free speech and dissent in India, whether slogans, social media commentary against ruling leaders, or arrests of journalists and activists who criticise the government,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

“People are being accused under [a] range of laws including sedition and threats to national security.”

Opinion

Editorial

Misery and despair
Updated 12 Jul, 2024

Misery and despair

Is a life lived happily and respectably too much to ask for from your country?
Temporary extension
12 Jul, 2024

Temporary extension

THE cabinet’s decision to allow ‘legal’ Afghan refugees — meaning those with Proof of Registration cards —...
Anti-smog strategy
12 Jul, 2024

Anti-smog strategy

BY acknowledging that smog is a year-round problem, and not just a winter issue, the Punjab government has taken the...
Population crisis
Updated 11 Jul, 2024

Population crisis

Moreover, successful programmes, such as Lady Health Workers, can be utilised to provide information and reproductive health services to women.
Taxing agriculture
11 Jul, 2024

Taxing agriculture

OUR inability to collect sufficient tax revenue is resulting in persistently high fiscal deficits, forcing ...
Negligence at PHOTA
11 Jul, 2024

Negligence at PHOTA

THE impression that the state is being careless towards aspects of organ trade control is damaging. Recent news ...