In an attempt to curb freedom of expression, the local police in Assam have arrested a 25-year-old man for featuring President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra inappropriately. The police made the arrest after the caricature became viral on social media giant Facebook page that was in the name of Jarir Ahmed Barbhuiya. Reportedly, the accused hails from Cachar district of Barak Valley in Assam. Speaking to media, the district’s Superintendent of Police Rakesh Roushan said Barbhuiya had posted the cartoons 4 days ago. “They featured the President, PM, CJI and others”.
Following the incident, the local police also rolled out an advisory urging users to refrain from sharing any inappropriate or controversial message or images on social media platforms that could trigger violence or be a mockery of an eminent personality of the country. The incident took place just a few days after a woman journalist named Swathi Vadlamudi came under the police radar for circulating a cartoon of Lord Ram and Sita to send out a clear message concerning the safety of women in India. Notably, the cartoon was shared in the wake of murder and rape of an 8-year-old Kathua girl.
If one looks closely, this is not the first case where the authorities have tried to suppress the freedom of expression of an artist. In 2015, many artists, scientists and professionals from various fields returned their prestigious awards claiming that the Modi government was attempting to curtail their freedom of Expression and was responsible for the growing intolerance in India. Speaking to media, the eminent British-Indian sculptor, Anish Kapoor said, “Art can only have a home where there is tolerance. All good-thinking Indians will recognise the atmosphere of intolerance and intimidation that prevails in our Indian society today. How then can we find creativity or the possibility of expression in this atmosphere of fear?”
Kapoor further added, “Our government encourages the hate that lies dormant in our great Indian psyche. Can our leaders not see that our tradition has always thrived on our openness and tolerance?”.