October 23rd, 2017
A businessman, Debjit Roy and another person, Anupam Tarafdar have been arrested in Balurghat in North Bengal after they uploaded Facebook posts that were allegedly seen as a criticism of the traffic restrictions imposed in the city during the festive season, as reported by The Telegraph.
The West Bengal government had imposed a restriction that other than battery-operated and cycle rickshaws, the movement of vehicles was restricted in the town from 4 pm to 4 am during the Pujas.
On 27 September, Roy uploaded a post in Bengali which said, “Bikers… whatever you do, please ensure that you park your bikes in the garage by 4 pm or else you can’t return home. If you are into business… then those who have issued the diktats will arrange your meal….”
In another post, Roy narrated his harrowing experience of having to walk 5 km with his 18-month-old child and pregnant wife because they could not find any toto (battery operated rickshaw) or cycle rickshaw to hire.
The social media post went viral and several residents wrote comments. Toto drivers, too, had staged a protest after claiming that this post has maligned them and harmed their business.
The allegation against Roy is that he was trying to provoke widespread outrage.
Roy’s wife Priyadarshini reportedly said that her husband was summoned to the police station on the evening of 19 October and made to sit there for “hours and then arrested.”
The police said that they had served notices to all those who were involved in writing the posts and (or) comments – all of them, barring Roy and Tarafdar, had come and apologised, admitting their mistakes and were let go.
When these men came to the police station, the police felt that they were hiding information and were trying to create a situation that would lead to a breach of law and order. Hence, they were arrested.
The police have registered two cases, one of them based on a complaint by toto drivers. The other case has been independently filed by the police. The charges include obstruction of a public servant discharging his public functions assault or criminal force to deter a civil servant and making statements conducive to public mischief.
Sections of the IT Act dealing with hacking, identity theft and impersonation have been invoked.
These offences carry jail terms ranging from three months to ten years. Produced at the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Balurghat on 20 October, Roy and Tarafdar have been sent to a two-day police remand.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Roy’s lawyer said, “My client’s posts merely reflected the feelings of thousands of Balurghat residents. I have personally faced similar inconvenience. What the police are citing to justify their action are mere apprehensions. There was nothing in the posts and comments that could have led to a breach of law and order.”
The police had also stopped about 50 residents who were holding a protest against the arrests.
The Logical Indian Take
The recent arrest reminds us of the arrest of Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor at Jadavpur University who was taken into custody for circulating a cartoon of chief minister Mamata Banerjee on the internet.
Again, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) sacked Pankaj Mishra, the constable whose video castigating home minister Rajnath Singh for “not advising” prime minister Narendra Modi “in the right direction” became viral on the social media.
Recently, a teenager in Uttar Pradesh, Zakir Ali Tyagi, had been arrested for a comment that he had made on the social media on the recent ruling about the Ganga and Yamuna rivers being ‘living human entity’ and also commenting on the temple politics of the BJP.
These trends point out at the fact that leaders across party lines are not open to constructive criticism and would go to any extent to curb free speech. Actions like these cause a significant blow to a democracy where the discourse of free speech and expression are censured, and fair debates are objected.
The Logical Indian condemns these kind of arrests and we hope the leaders learn to accept criticism.
Read more at: The Telegraph