The Chennai Press Club on Monday displayed two large banners of cartoonist G Bala’s controversial work in protest against his arrest a day earlier. Members also staged a demonstration in the premises of the club.
“What the government has done is wrong, so we have blown up the cartoon and put up the posters outside the Press Club,” Bharathi Tamilan, joint secretary of the Press Club, told Scroll.in.
The Tamil Nadu Police arrested Bala, a freelance cartoonist, on Sunday for his caricature depicting the state’s inability to prevent a family from committing suicide in Tirunelveli by self-immolating. The cartoon showed the district police commissioner, collector and the Tamil Nadu chief minister without clothes.
Bala was granted bail earlier on Monday. He had posted the cartoon on his Facebook page, and the image was shared more than 40,000 times. As support for the cartoonist grew on social media after his arrest on Sunday, #StandWithCartoonistBala began to trend.
On Monday, on the way to court, Bala said he drew the cartoon out of rage, The Times of India reported.
“The incident made me think that my children were burning,” he said. “I have no words to express my sorrow, so I drew the cartoon out of rage. It was not aimed at anyone.”
The Press Club joint secretary highlighted how wrong it was of the government to use “the collector’s power to ask the police to file cases..., that too under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act”. “The government could have filed a defamation case if they wanted to,” Tamilan said. “The picture is not meant to sexually arouse anyone. He had depicted a problem.”
On October 23, P Essakkimuthu, a labourer, had set his wife and children ablaze before immolating himself outside the Tirunelveli Collectorate. Essakkimuthu had borrowed Rs 1.45 lakh from a moneylender, identified as Muthulakshmi. While the couple had repaid more than Rs 2 lakh in interest, they were allegedly being harassed constantly.
Essakkimuthu’s brother Gopi said the family had filed complaints at six weekly grievance redressal meetings at the collectorate, but the police took no action against the moneylender.