Chennai: Popular freelance cartoonist G Bala was arrested on Sunday for criticising the Tamil Nadu government and chief minister EK Palaniswami for being unable to prevent a family from committing suicide in Tirunelveli.
The cartoon shows a child burning on the ground while the Tirunelveli police commissioner, the collector and the Chief Minister gather around but do nothing to save the child and instead cover their modesty with bundles of cash.
Posted by Bala on his social media pages on October 24, the cartoon had gone viral and has been shared close to 40,000 times since then. Bala’s cartoons generally revolve around politics. He has over 65,000 followers on Facebook alone.The cartoon has been shared over 40,000 times on social media websites. (Photo: Facebook)
The police action was taken after the district collector took notice of the cartoon and reported the matter to the chief secretary as well as the DGP of Tamil Nadu Police.
According to the police, Bala alias Balakrishnan was arrested in Chennai by a special Tirunelveli District Crime Branch Police team led by an inspector. “G Bala of Chennai has drawn distasteful cartoons about Tirunelveli District top officials and posted them on social media and in this regard the District Collector had given a complaint,” a police release said.
He has been booked under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) and Section 501 of the Indian Penal Code (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory). The charges levelled carry a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
Soon after his arrest, a twitter hashtag #standwithCartoonistBala began trending. The Chennai Press Club also announced a demonstration in the state capital on Monday.
Esakimuthu, a labourer, had set himself and his family ablaze at the Tirunelveli Collectorate premises on October 23 after being constantly harassed by a loan shark despite paying more money than he had borrowed. He had submitted six petitions to the collectorate, but the authorities and the police failed to take action.
The police had later arrested three persons, including the financier and his wife, in connection with the incident. After the incident, Palaniswami said the state had in 2003 enacted a legislation against charging of exorbitant interest rates by money-lenders. He had directed the district collectors and police officials to act swiftly on any complaint related to usury.