In a development that extends credence to the intolerance under West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee’ rule, Priyanka Sharma, the BJP Bengal youth leader, who had been arrested for merely posting a meme caricaturing Banerjee on her Facebook Timeline on May 9, has been slapped with non-bailable charges and sent to judicial custody for 14 days.
A complaint against the convenor of BJYM, Priyanka Sharma was made by TMC leader Vibhas Hazra in Howrah for allegedly sharing a morphed picture of Mamata Banerjee. The MET Gala 2019 themed meme superimposed Mamata’s face on Priyanka Chopra’s body. She was arrested and produced in Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Howrah.
The copy of the complaint read that this act broke the community guidelines and it was being viewed as an issue of violence. “She not just tries to insult our Hon’ble Chief Minister, but she trying to insult the culture of our Bengal by her post on Facebook and which is Cyber Crime”, read the complaint.
The TMC leaders had maintained that sharing the CM’s photoshopped pictures was a grave crime and it was insulting the CM of the state.
Meanwhile, Sharma has been charged under Section 500 of the IPC (defamation), and Sections 66A (offensive messages) and the non-bailable 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.
Legal experts confirmed that it would be difficult for West Bengal police to prove obscenity or the meme’s “sexually explicit” nature and also said that Section 66A and other provisions Sharma has been charged with, was struck down by the Supreme Court in March 2015. However, relief might not come soon for the BJP youth leader as courts in Howrah are on strike till May 14.
Senior Trinamool leader and state minister Arup Roy told The Sunday Express, “There was a complaint at the Cyber Crime department against the post. The police have done the right thing by taking action as it is a criminal offence. The post was in bad taste. The West Bengal Chief Minister is a woman and any post like this is not acceptable. We condemn such incidents, especially if done during elections.”
Meanwhile, with over 56,000 tweets, #ISupportPriyankaSharma campaign started trending on Twitter, after her arrest on May 10. The netizens came up in huge numbers to support BJP’s Priyanka Sharma and voiced their disapproval against Mamata Banerjee’s coercion.