On May 09, 2019, Priyanka Sharma, a youth leader of BJP in Howrah shared a meme that had Mamta Banerjee’s face photoshopped on a picture of Priyanka Chopra at the 2019 Met Gala.
After she shared the picture on Facebook, a Trinamool Congress leader, Bhibas Hazra filed a complaint against her with the West Bengal police cyber cell. According to the police, Priyanka was taken into 14-day judicial custody. Later, the apex court heard Priyanka’s plea for bail on May 14, 2019, and granted her bail on a condition that she apologises to Mamata Banerjee. The court order was later modified and the apology condition was waived off, asking for her immediate release.
“This act broke the community guidelines and it was being viewed as an issue of violence. She has not just tried to insult our Hon’ble Chief Minister, but also to insult the culture of our Bengal by her post on Facebook and which is Cyber Crime,” the complaint read.
Netizens have been criticising Priyanka’s arrest and have been calling out Mamata Banerjee and her government for attacking her Freedom of Expression.
The hashtag #ISupportPriyankaSharma is doing the rounds on the internet and is criticising the Mamata government and West Bengal police and demanding her bail. It’s delightful how some supporters of different parties have united to raise their voice against the muzzling of Freedom of expression.
“Many people posted the same meme on social media. She was just one of them. Police said she edited it. How is that possible? Our chief minister speaks of democracy and you get arrested and jailed for posing a meme,” Sharma’s brother Rajiv told the newspaper.
However, Senior TMC leader, Arup Roy believes that the treatment meted out to Priyanka Sharma is the “right thing” to have done and he tried to justify his belief by stating, “there was a complaint at the cyber crime department against the post. The police have done the right thing by taking action as it is a criminal offence. The post was in bad taste. The West Bengal chief minister is a woman and any post like this is not acceptable. We condemn such incidents, especially if done during elections.”
According to The Indian Express, Priyanka has been booked under section 500 of the IPC (defamation), section 66A (offensive messages) and the non-bailable 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act. One simply cannot understand how Mamata’s face being photoshopped on a picture of Priyanka Gandhi can be deemed offensive.
The Logical Indian Take
Political humour has always been in vogue. Mamata is not the first one to be made fun of. Priyanka is not the first one to be arrested for sharing a meme. Arvind Kejriwal in one of his interviews with Zee News laughs at his “muffler wala” jokes and goes on to crack a joke on him wearing shoes. Rahul Gandhi in his interview to NDTV, says he finds “Pappu jokes” funny and he has had a good laugh over them. He also says that he neither felt offended nor insulted. Maybe Mamata Banerjee and her government need to quit being over-sensitive and try to treat a joke as a joke.
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