Slow Death of Freedom of Expression in West Bengal
After sharing a meme with Mamata Banerjee’s face on that of Priyanka Chopra in her MET Gala, 2019 avatar, a BJP youth leader, Priyanka Sharma was accused.
The internet is ablaze with tweets and outrage from the youth in response to the impulsive arrest of Priyanka Sharma a resident of Howrah, West Bengal.
A BJP youth leader, Priyanka was accused of sharing a meme with Mamata Banerjee’s face on that of Priyanka Chopra in her MET Gala, 2019 avatar. This particular meme was shared by many but Priyanka Sharma got booked under section 500 and 66A for defamation and spreading offensive messages respectively. An additional non-bailable 67A was added to her charges as well for spreading sexually explicit messages through electronic media.
This sudden arrest seems outrageous as the image in concern had nothing that was offensive to the individual in concern or even had sexual connotations of any kind. Political humor and animations of political leaders have been in vogue for long, even before electronic media was popular. A public figure is constant media light is sure to get their share of it. The Chief Minister herself has a very active social media presence must be well aware of how these memes work. The arrest came across as insensitive and authoritative when the image had nothing offensive towards any of the individuals involved.
It wasn’t just an arrest of the youth leader but an arrest of Freedom of expression and speech. It seems that the slow curbing of this freedom is what the chief minister has in mind. This is not the first instance of arrest of youths to put an end to their freedom of expression. West Bengal has been witness to a number of such cases in the past too. With such arrests, it rightly seems that the Chief Minister is trying to put the hard earned democracy to an end and bring back an autocratic rule.
It is surprising how sensitive the ruling party in West Bengal is to such political humor on the digital platforms but is completely ignorant to mob lynching, price hikes and other punishable crimes which take place often on a frequent basis and often go unreported.
What are the people in power trying to achieve by making such drastic moves? Suppressing the power of expression and dominating the voice of the youth can only be done until there is fear. When the fear vanishes and the youth rises up to face the discriminating power with unity and fearlessness, the ruling entity will have to give in to the power of democracy.