An Indian man faces the prospect of arrest after posting a status on his Facebook page, criticizing India’s newly elected Prime Minister.
In March of this year, prior to India’s 6-week-long general elections, Devu Chodankar posted a status condemning the BJP, which ended up sweeing the vote, and discouraging voters from supporting the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“There is imminent threat of Holocaust as it happened in Gujarat through the garb of cunning government policies of Parrikar,” read the status, referring to Modi’s overseeing of communal riots in the western state of Gujurat, as a result of which hundreds of Muslims died. Modi was Chief Minister of Gujurat at the time.
Chodankar, a 31-year-old shipbuilder based in Goa, later deleted the status and apologized for his choice of words on a discussion forum named Goa Speaks, but stood by his argument.
Goan businessman Atul Pai Kane, a BJP supporter, reported the post to Goa police’s cyber branch. The case was transferred to the cyber crimes division, which booked Chodankar as accused of offenses under sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code, section 125 of the representation of the people act, and 66-A of the IT act.
“The complaint is against Devu for making inflammatory statements and trying to create communal disharmony, not comments against the BJP,” Kane said.
Chodankar’s plea to avoid arrest by preemptively paying bail was rejected by a local court on Friday, thereby clearing the path for him to be charged for arrest.
“Custodial interrogation of the accused is very much essential to find out any motive of larger game plan to promote communal and social disharmony in the state,” said inspector Rajesh Job, justifying the reportedly imminent arrest.
Several on Facebook are defending Chodankar’s innocence. Spokespeople for Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, and the Communist Party of India have all condemned the complaint and possible arrest as an act of muting criticism of the BJP, and an infringement on free speech. “We condemn the action,” said Goa Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat. “There is no freedom of speech in the BJP-ruled state. The police is working under political influence.”
Activists, too, plan to protest Chodankar’s plight:
In late April, Chodankar expressed a “deep hatred for the system which has subjected [him] to so much evil.”
But when the results of the elections were announced, he offered congratulations to the BJP party, criticizing whom landed him in legal trouble to begin with:
Jatin Naik, Chodankar’s legal council, has reportedly said that their next step will be to approach the High Court with an appeal.
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