New Delhi: Kamal Shukla, a journalist from Bastar, has been booked on sedition charges for sharing a cartoon on his Facebook page.
The cartoon reportedly takes a dig at judiciary and government of India.
In its version given to Hindustan Times, the police have claimed that Shukla was booked “under Section 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code on the basis of a complaint filed by a Rajasthan resident. The case was handed to us by the cyber cell in Raipur. An investigation is on, and appropriate action will be taken soon.”
Speaking to News18 Shukla laughed aloud while discussing the case. “I don’t know how anyone finds me a seditionist. I think I’ve earned a reputation, over the last several years through by reporting, for being a fierce nationalist. This is frankly a big joke.”
On the question of whether he’s taking legal assistance on the issue, Shukla said, “I’m looking at all available options.”
Shukla has earned reputation over the last several years for writing against successive governments over their stance on the issue of Maoists, illegal mining, etc. He is the editor of Bhumkaal Samachar and heads an organisation – the Patrakar Suraksha Kanoon Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti – which seeks a law to protect journalists in Bastar region.
Bastar has earned notoriety for repeated attacks on its journalists. A local journalist from Dantewada, Prabhat Singh, was jailed for 96 days in 2016 for posting a message mocking a police officer on an unofficial Whatsapp group.
Santosh Yadav, another journalist, was put behind bars on similar grounds. Another journalist Somaru Nag, was held on charges of destroying government property and abetting Naxals.
Journalists from Bastar complain that they are targeted on the basis of false cases and by extra-judicial vigilante gangs constituted to hound human rights activists and journalists who report against governments. And reporting from the frontlines of the government-Naxal conflict, often makes them susceptible to threats from Naxals as well.
In 2016, a fact-finding team from the Editors Guild of India travelled to Bastar and followed it with a report. In it the members claimed that there was “a sense of fear” among the journalists in Bastar and mentioned that, “The state government wants the media to see its fight with the Maoists as a fight for the nation and expects the media to treat it as a national security issue, and not raise any questions about it.”
"I am not the only one who has expressed concern about forces that are trying weaken India's democracy. Writers, political commentators, satirists, party leaders of all hues have expressed similar emotions," Shukla wrote on his Facebook wall in response to the FIR lodged against him.
The cartoon over which the FIR has been lodged against Shukla, he mentioned in the same post, has now been deleted.