In 2012, a professor from Kolkata learnt the hard way that sharing TMC or Mamata Banerjee cartoons on social media, even if they're meant to be taken lightly, can land you in hot soup. Or in the case of West Bengal, in jail.
Not only was professor Mahapatra arrested and booked under relevant sections, TMC "vigilantes" decided to take matters into their own hands and assaulted him while he was on his way back from work.
Seven years later, the situation hasn't changed much in Bengal. If anything, things have become all the more volatile with the ongoing Lok Sabha elections hanging like a dagger above everyone's heads.
In Mamata Banerjee's Bengal, you simply do not do anything that irks the Chief Minister. Because if you do, you might end up in jail. Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably aware of the whole Priyanka Sharma fiasco by now. Sharma, a BJYM worker in Howrah, was arrested for having shared a meme on Banerjee. The meme had a morphed image of Banerjee's face on Priyanka Chopra's look at the Met Gala a few days ago.
The image served no other purpose but mere humour, but clearly, Banerjee isn't too keen on criticism or satire or even harmless fun, for that matter. Ironically though, Mamata Banerjee has often positioned herself as a champion of free thinking and free speech. Of course, as long as it is in her favour.
Naturally, the event has sparked an outrage on social media with #ISupportPriyankaSharma being the number one trend on Twitter. This is what Twitterati have to say:
If you vote for BJP in West Bengal, you will be killed.If you Chant 'Jai Shri Ram' you will be in Jail.If you make cartoon on @MamataOfficial , you will be in Jail.Hitler Didi at her best.#ISupportPriyankaSharma#shame @AITCofficial #gundaraaj @BJP4India pic.twitter.com/ukhH7s9WGw— Apurb K Choudhary 🇮🇳 (@beingAPU) May 11, 2019
And not a word from the fraud ‘Save Democracy’ brigade. National jholawalas are silent, including our so called ‘comedians’ who have made careers out of political memes.#ISupportPriyankaSharma https://t.co/d0KNwdzgf9— Raj Pandit (@rajpandit17) May 10, 2019
A girl is sent to 14 days custody in Bengal for posting funny meme on @MamataOfficial , FoE goes for toss and liberals goes in hiding holes applying fevicol on their mouthIs West Bengal a Nazi state and Mamata Lady Hitler ? I stand and #ISupportPriyankaSharma @narendramodi pic.twitter.com/TTMTVzv6U8— Ramesh Solanki (@Rajput_Ramesh) May 11, 2019
Forget humor, any sort of expression is dead in @MamataOfficial's Bengal. Priyanka Sharma, our district executive member, @bjym4howrah was arrested for posting a Met Gala-themed meme on Mamata Banerjee ji.#ISupportPriyankaSharma and Mamata Didi must release her immediately.— Chowkidar Poonam Mahajan (@poonam_mahajan) May 11, 2019
Appalled at an Emergency-like situation in WB. Freedom of expression is severely curbed. Priyanka Sharma, executive member of @bjym4howrah has been sent to 14-day police custody for posting a Met Gala-themed meme on @MamataOfficial.#ISupportPriyankaSharma - Please Release Her!— Chowkidar Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) May 11, 2019
Bengal has always been the culture capital of the country; since time immemorial, the state and its citizens have been associated with literature, art and intelligentsia. A part of intelligent thinking involves dissent and criticism. One would expect that Didi, who has managed to effortlessly navigate through the complex and male-dominated political structure of Bengal, would be able to handle a little humour at her cost. But intolerance runs rampant in the state; remember the time Bhobishyoter Bhoot mysteriously disappeared from theatres simply because it questioned the ruling government in Bengal? Clearly, one has to be extremely careful expressing opinions on public platforms so as to not invite the wrath of the TMC.