State administrations, be it in Goa, Karnataka or Kerala, have shown great alacrity in arresting, browbeating and often simply terrorizing anyone who is even slightly critical of Modi on networking sites. On a few occasions, at the receiving end of the police’s anger — and anxiety — have been students not even out of college.
Naval engineer Devu Chodankar got into a fair bit of trouble in Panaji last month when he posted some comments on Facebook which were deemed to be anti-Modi. Though he withdrew them later, a sessions court ordered his arrest and rejected his anticipatory bail plea after inputs from the local cyber crime cell said there was a “larger game plan to promote communal and social disharmony”.
The police went on to file an FIR under Section 153(A), 295(A) of the IPC, besides Section 125 of the Representation of People Act and Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act. Justifying these sections, some of them non-bailable, police inspector Rajesh Job told the court that Chodankar’s custody was being sought as his interrogation was “essential” to find out if there was a greater conspiracy behind the posts.
Last month, Syed Waqas, an MBA student in Bangalore, was arrested for allegedly circulating offensive messages against Modi on WhatsApp. And on May 15, author Amaresh Mishra, who wrote the script for the Saif Ali Khan-starrer ‘Bullett Raja’, was arrested from his Gurgaon residence for posting messages on his Twitter account, that was later closed by the UP police.
At that time, Modi had not yet taken oath as India’s Prime Minister.
“Unlike in America, where (Barack) Obama is routinely panned for some of his policies, where he is made fun of for clicking selfies during funerals or for sometimes staring at the behind of beautiful women, one has to be careful in India when it comes to our politicians,” says a professor in Sikkim University.”
All parties in India are on the same page. You just can’t question their leaders.”
The censure isn’t limited to social media and networking-microblogging forums.
In the past four days alone, Kerala police have registered two separate cases against 18 college students and teachers for “defaming” Modi in their respective campus magazines.
On Tuesday , cops in Kunnamkulam booked seven more, including five students and a staff editor of the Government Polytechnic College there, for reserving a slot for Modi in a ‘hall of shame’ page in their magazine ‘Litsokniga’ that included the likes of Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Ajmal Kasab, Velupillai Prabhakaran and Veerappan. Not a great list to be in, but protests and questions have risen on the correctness of the police action.
On Friday, 11 others, including the staff editor and students’ editor of Sree Krishna College’s in-house magazine `Name’, were booked in Guruvayur for inserting an unpleasant clue in a crossword puzzle.
The real challenge for the Prime Minister, who is showing all signs of being a statesman, is how he tames communal forces. Moreover, it is time everyone realized that criticism of India’s policies, its past or its politicians isn’t equal to being anti-national,” says Aqsa Agha, a PhD student of history in JNU.
Aftab Alam, professor of political science at AMU, comes to the point more directly. “That’s what the secular people feared about Modi’s rule,” he says. “We should not let the fear grow.”