Cartoon for which G.Bala has been detained
G.Bala’s picture shows Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami along with two other members of the Tirunelveli district police and administration naked and covering their privates with a wad of currency notes while a child dies, or is dead, still burning at their feet.
The cartoon refers to the tragic event last Monday, October 23, when a man, who was allegedly being harassed and threatened by moneylenders, doused himself and his family with 5 litres of paraffin and set himself and his family on fire in front of an official building in protest against police inaction on the practice of loan sharking in Tirunelveli.
Cartoonist G. Bala(Facebook)
The young woman, Subbulakshmi (25), and her two children, Mathi Saranya (4) and Akshaya Bharanitha (18 months) died that day from severe burns. The father, Esakkimuthu (28), who was in critical condition, died died on Wednesday, 25 October.
Esakkimuthu’s brother Gopi, who was accompanying him that day stated:
“I did not expect that he would take such an extreme step of killing his family and setting himself on fire. When I came back from having a cup of tea, my brother’s family had been reduced to ashes”.
Esakkimuthu had filed as many as six complaints between September and October accusing Muthulakshmi, the moneylender, of demanding exorbitant interest on the borrowed money, but the police continued to maintain that the debt was legitimate and that Esakkimuthu should pay it. The family now blames the police for not taking timely action against the moneylender.
Eventually the police took action against the moneylender, her husband and brother-in-law for inducing suicide and illegally increasing the interest on the loan.
Obscenity and defamation
Bala published the vignette on the evening of 24 October on Facebook and was immediately shared by more than 38,000 people. The District Collector reported the matter to the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police (DGP) ordered his arrest.
Bala was arrested under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act. This Act punishes“publication or transmission of obscene material in electronic form“. He is also arrested under Section 501 of the Indian Penal Code for: “printing or recording material considered defamatory”.
The Press Club of Chennai has announced a demonstration in the state capital on Monday, November 6 in protest against the arrest of the cartoonist.
And so it was, in addition to calling for the mobilisationthe demonstration, on Monday they hung two large banners with the G.Bala cartoon on the façade of their headquarters.
Photo: Shabbir Ahmed
On the same day, Monday 6 November, G.Bala was released on bail.
His first words after his release were that he will continue to draw cartoons and point out the mistakes of the government.