A Tamil Nadu cartoonist has landed in trouble with the Tirunelveli police over a cartoon targeting the state administration over the immolation of a family hounded by loan sharks.
Cartoonist Bala was arrested from his residence in Chennai on Sunday by the Tirunelveli police following a complaint by the Tirunelveli District Collector Sandeep Nandhudri.
The cartoon that has the administration fuming shows a naked Nellai Police Commissioner, Collector and Chief Minister trying to cover themselves up with wads of cash, as they close their eyes to a child's burning body.
Cartoonist Bala arrested by TN Crime branch for this cartoon pic.twitter.com/1fbHUdg06râ€” Arvind Gunasekar (@arvindgunasekar) November 5, 2017
It alludes 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 cartoon, which borders on the obscene, clearly stung the District Collector, who filed a complaint against the cartoonist.
"The Collector had filed the complaint towards the end of October," said Tirunelveli SP Arunsakthikumar to TNM.
"An FIR was registered and the cartoonist was arrested from his residence in Chennai. He will be brought to Tirunelveli for further investigations," he added.
The cartoonist has been 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.
The complaint filed against Bala states that the cartoon is 'derogatory' and 'defamatory'.
"This highly demeaning cartoon shows the government officers (Collector and Commissioner of police) in poor light and also casts aspersion about their integrity. The cartoon also shows the Honourable Chief Minsiter of Tamil Nadu in highly derogatory and belittling way. The cartoon is published without verification of facts and is highly humiliating. It is defamatory in nature and is meant to create among the public, hatred towards the officers and CM," states the FIR.
But this arrest has drawn criticism from various quarters with activists, journalists and even former police officer questioning it. The Tirunelveli police however remain unfazed.
#CartoonistBala arrest is unwarranted and high-handed. TN is becoming a police state.â€” Kavitha Muralidharan (@kavithamurali) November 5, 2017
"We have acted as per the law and followed all required procedures," says the SP. "We are yet to conduct a thorough enquiry with the accused. We will share further details when it is complete," he adds.
Bala on his part, however, is not new to such controversy. He has, in the past, been accused of misogyny in his illustrations and earned the ire of politicians and activists alike. His cartoon featuring DMK chief Karunanidhi and Congress leader Kushboo in 2014 had caused anuproar among women activists who termed the blatant sexism highly distasteful.