Chennai: Freelance cartoonist G. Bala was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police on Sunday in Chennai. He has been booked under charges of obscene representation and defaming the chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and other officials.
The cartoonist has been booked under Sections 67 of Information Technology Act and 501 of the Indian Penal Code.
Last month, a family set themselves ablaze at the Tirunelveli district collector’s office over alleged harassment by private money lenders. Bala’s cartoon shows a child in flames as chief minister and two government officials—collector and police commissioner—are seen naked covering their private parts with cash bundles and their eyes closed.
The cartoon posted on 24 October on his Facebook page has gained more than 39,000 shares.
The Tirunelveli collector Sandeep Nanduri lodged a complaint with the district crime branch as the cartoon had “represented the chief minister and other government officials in an obscene manner".
Political party leaders have condemned the arrest. CPM MP T.K. Rangarajan demanded immediate release of the cartoonist. Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader Anbumani Ramadoss termed Bala’s arrest as “undemocratic". Congress leader S. Jothimani said, “I do strongly disagree with Bala on many occasions. But we should strongly condemn the arrest. We should not let Tamil Nadu become a police state."
G. Bala’s arrest comes days after Nakkeeran Pugazhendhi, treasurer of NGO Arappor Iyakkam, was arrested for raising an issue over an illegal temple construction. He was released on bail on Saturday. While the NGO claimed the arrest was an attempt to intimidate, an FIR was filed by a member of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) alleged that the activist had assaulted him and made derogatory comments over his caste.
Earlier this week, S. Thirumurugan was arrested in Srivilliputhur town following a complaint by a BJP functionary for his alleged abusive remarks on prime minister Narendra Modi in a private chat on Facebook.
There is growing criticism over Tamil Nadu’s use of the “draconian" Goondas Act, in the last few months. Recently, the state government drew flak after it arrested professor Jayaraman, 23-year old student M. Valarmathi and others who protested against an ONGC project.
Earlier this year, Thirumurugan Gandhi, leader of a pro-Tamil Eelam group, and three others were arrested earlier this year for holding a candle-light vigil in memory of Sri Lankan Tamils who died in the last phase of the island’s civil war in 2009.
The Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Forest Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Sand Offenders, Slum Grabbers and Video Pirates Act, 1982, known as the Goondas Act, enables the authorities to detain “habitual offenders" for up to one year in prison.