Cartoonist G Bala was intimated by Twitter's legal team on Saturday, 19 June, that they have received a complaint from the law and enforcement agency of the Government of India, that claimed one of his cartoons had violated the law.
Responding to the notice, Bala told The Quint:
"“Cartoon is a free form... to express our opinions with imagination. The government is trying to direct our cartoons... how is this a democracy?”" -
“The Modi government has been working towards robbing the people of freedom. They want to take control of the entire country. They have even taken control of media through money and muscle power. But it is the power of social media that is bothering them,” he told The Quint.
BJP Trying to Take Control of All of Social Media: Bala
The caricature showed LK Advani and other leaders riding a chariot breaking through a gavel, while PM Modi, Union Minister Amit Shah and others are seen, holding saffron flags and cheering. The cartoon, published in 2002, is titled, 'Destroyed Not Only Babri Masjid.'
The social media giant suggested that the cartoonist seek legal counsel and challenge the government’s request in court, or contact civil society organisations for finding a resolution or voluntarily delete the content.
Bala said his response to the notice is, “... going to draw 4-5 cartoons on just this. None of this will stop me from drawing what's on my mind about the present-day politics.”
“It is ironic because they (BJP) came to power with the help of social media, and now they want to take control of this media as well. They have figured that if they restrict people's freedom then they will be afraid to speak against the government," he said.
"If the government manages to block an artist or suspend his account, he will first be afraid to post again and then will have to set up an account all over again, which will take much longer to gain traction,” he added.
Familiar With Legal Trouble
Bala was at the centre of controversy in 2017, for which he even landed in jail. He had drawn a caricature of Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, Nellai Collector and Nellai Police Commissioner naked and covering their genitals with currency notes. They were seen looking down upon a child lying on the ground, that was up in flames.
It alluded to the recent tragedy where four members of a family set themselves on fire outside the Tirunelveli Collectorate, after their complaints of harassment by usurers allegedly fell on deaf ears.
The complaint filed against Bala stated that the cartoon was 'derogatory' and 'defamatory' and he was booked under Section 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the IPC, and it is to be read with Section 67 (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the IT act.
Upon his release, he asserted, "I did not commit murder. I don’t regret this cartoon. I will continue to highlight the inefficiency of the government through my cartoon. I will continue to draw cartoons. I will not stop. From Modi to EPS, I will highlight the failures of the government."
Bala's Cartoons: Bold & Raw
The 36-year-old Bala calls himself an editorial cartoonist and a journalist and his cartoons frequently become the subject of debate in Tamil Nadu. Bala has thousands of followers on social media and frequently draws critiques on state and national issues.
His digital venture, Linesmedia.in, carries his cartoons and caricatures, through which he frequently does scathing commentary on issues that plague our society.
On 6 May, after Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader MK Stalin was elected the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Bala posted a caricature showing Stalin standing victoriously while PM Modi, with the words 'Fascist BJP Politics' written on him, along with a large figure representative of COVID stood behind him.
On 5 May, Bala posted a caricature of a father chasing a boy and screaming, 'How dare you call your mother Amma because you are a DMK follower, after all..' To give you context, AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa was fondly called 'Amma' by the people of Tamil Nadu. This caricature was a commentary on how the DMK party cadre had vandalised one of the state-run Amma canteens.
On 5 April, Bala posted a caricature that was a sharp criticism of the Tamil Nadu police personnel who were responsible for the brutal custodial deaths of Jeyaraj and Beniks in Thoothukudi.
Twitter Notice to Cartoonist Manjul
Just a few days back, on 4 June, popular political cartoonist Manjul was intimated by Twitter that it had received a legal request from Indian law enforcement to take action against his social media account.
The cartoonist had shared the e-mail he had received from the company with the caption, “Jai ho Modi Ji ki sarkar ki!” He has posted several illustrations criticising the Centre’s handling of the COVID outbreak, exposing the grim reality of the devastating second wave of the pandemic, and how several people did not have access to healthcare.
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