Vol. XLIII No. 25 June 23, 2019

HATE, THREAT & VIOLENCE: In ‘New India’, Mediapersons, Youths Arrested for Social Media Posts Critical of BJP Leaders

Satyaki S

IN the first two weeks of June, about a dozen young men and journalists have been arrested across the country, primarily for social media posts critical of BJP chief ministers and leaders. After the Narendra Modi government assumed office for a second term, such news started trickling in from various parts of the country, particularly states ruled by the BJP.

The Uttar Pradesh government, led by the BJP, led the effort to threaten and intimidate, thereby silence critical voices. The state police arrested six people, including journalists, for social media posts that it said “maligned” the image of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Two more persons were booked for posts on social media on the chief minister. On June 8, journalist Prashant Kanojia was taken into custody for sharing a video in which a woman is seen speaking to reporters outside the chief minister’s office. The woman claimed she had been talking to Adityanath over video chat and had sent him a marriage proposal. The Supreme Court ordered Kanojia’s release on June 11, saying his arrest was “illegal, resulting in deprivation of personal liberty”.

A day after Kanojia’s arrest, the UP police arrested a private news channel’s head Ishita Singh and editor Anuj Shukla for “defaming” the chief minister by airing the video that Kanojia had shared on social media. The police said workers affiliated to a political party had approached it against the news channel for broadcasting the video without verifying facts. Another editor of the channel, Anshul Kaushik, was arrested on the same charges a day later.

Two people were arrested in Gorakhpur district on June 10 for allegedly posting objectionable comments on social media. Peer Mohammad, a scrap dealer who is from the Gola area, was held for sharing an “objectionable post” about Adityanath. The police also arrested Shahpur-resident Ram Prasad, who is a manager at a nursing home in Gorakhpur, for an “objectionable” social media post on the chief minister.

In Assam and Tripura, two other BJP-ruled states, three men were arrested for Facebook posts critical of their chief ministers. In Assam, the two persons arrested were so-called members of the BJP’s IT cell. They had questioned the prevailing situation in the state and held Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal responsible for it. The Assam police also raided the house of another person in this connection. The Tripura youth was arrested from Delhi for what the police called “spreading fake news” about the family life of Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.

The states ruled by the Congress too are not falling behind. In the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, two persons, including a journalist, were arrested for social media posts on the erratic power supply in the state. The police first arrested a man and charged him with sedition on June 13 for allegedly spreading rumours over power cuts on a social media platform. A day later, a journalist was arrested for publishing “false” news about electricity supply. On June 9, a young man was arrested for posting “objectionable” remarks against Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.

After the BJP secured victory for a second term at the centre, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to “fulfil the dreams of 130 crore Indians and create the New India all of us dreamt of”. In reality what the BJP government is offering is intensified State repression and attacks on minorities and dalits by right-wing goons. The Left and democratic forces have to wage a united fight to arrest this trend.