Expert who defended Rafale deal by Modi govt arrested by Odisha police for alleged controversial remarks

As the season of elections is upon us, many political parties have up their ante against adversaries for various reasons. We saw recently how Puri police seized the Hangar and Helicopter of Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys (IMFA) group, which is owned by Jay Panda’s family. Jay went all gun blazing on Social media saying it’s a vindictive move by Naveen Patnaik to stop his movements in Odisha. The criminality for which the helicopter was seized and FIR filed is still unclear as the state version and version ascertained by official records differ greatly.

During this incident, Panda’s co-passenger was Abhijit Iyer Mitra. A defence analyst who had vociferously defended the Rafale deal struck by the Modi government with the French government.

Interestingly, after Jay Panda’s helicopter was seized and FIR filed, massive protests broke out against not just Jay Panda but also Abhijit for defamatory statements against the Konark Temple. It is worthy to note here that the satirical comments were made by Abhijit and not Jay Panda.

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The protests escalated to a point where their effigies were also burnt in Odisha.

Following the protests yesterday, today morning, a privilege motion was moved in Odisha assembly today against Abhijit Iyer Mitra over his alleged comments. The motion was to summon Mitra to the assembly to answer questions.

According to the rule book, privilege motion can be moved against members and non-members for contempt. This is the collective privilege of the members in a state assembly.

Now, news has surfaced that Abhijit Iyer Mitra has been detained by the police for his satirical humour because it ‘hurt religious sentiments’. This information was put out by journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh who was also a co-passenger in with Jay Panda and Abhijit Iyer Mitra after which, Panda’s helicopter was seized by the Odisha government.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra had posted a satirical video on social networking website, Twitter, where he mocked the architecture of the Konark Temple. He had, in the same thread, also clarified that his video was in jest. However, it did not take long for the matter to blow up. Many are speculating Mitra’s detainment is actually a way to get back at Jay Panda and against people who are sympathetic towards him. Jay Panda was suspended from BJD recently after he accused the party of Stalinist tactics.

There also seems to be confusion about the reason for his arrest. Certain sources are confirming that section 153A has been invoked against Mitra. Section 153A is invoked for “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”.

There are other theories that point towards the members of the assembly moving a privilege motion that led to his arrest, primarily for calling the members ‘buddhu’ (foolish). However, there is no clarity yet on what the charges invoked are.

A report in Orissa post quotes :

Later in his media reactions, BJP MLA Pradeep Purohit said, “Iyer has used derogatory remarks on Lord Jagannath, Konark Sun Temple and Odisha. Till date, he has not even tendered an apology. He has also used the term ‘buddhu’ (fool) for the legislators of Odisha. Today discussion on the privilege motion is continuing. We want that stringent punishment should be initiated against him. BJP supports this privilege motion and demands legal action against Iyer. ”

Ruling BJD MLA Sameer Dash said, “The Leader of Opposition has moved the privilege motion. But, more condemnable is that Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has not yet spoken against Abhijit Iyer’s anti-Odisha remarks and insulting word against the legislators of Odisha. It implies that the Union Minister is supporting Abhijit Iyer’s remarks.”

This is a developing story and we will update this article with details as and when they emerge.

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