The Tamil Nadu Police have filed another case against cartoonist Bala and two other journalists for blowing up his controversial cartoon on a banner and displaying it outside the Chennai Press Club on November 6.
The police arrested Bala on November 5 for his cartoon criticising the state’s inability to prevent a family in Tirunelveli from committing suicide over debt. The cartoon showed the district police commissioner, collector and the Tamil Nadu chief minister without clothes. Bala was granted bail a day later, by which time the cartoon on his Facebook page had been widely shared and support for him grew on social media.
Journalists rallied behind Bala, and the Chennai Press Club displayed two large banners of the controversial cartoon as a mark of protest. Members of the club also held a demonstration.
On November 7, the police filed the new First Information Report against Bala, Press Club Joint Secretary Bharati Tamilan, and executive committee member of Chennai Press Club Asadullah. “Such a digital banner portraying the police commissioner and chief minster naked and witnessing a child burning was placed in the Press Club,” the FIR said. “It was disturbing the public and prevented free movement of transport.”
Tamilan said he came to know about the fresh case against them on Tuesday. “The government wants to curtail everything,” he told Scroll.in. “A few months ago, they imposed Section 145 on the Press Club. Whatever the incident in Tamil Nadu, Chennai Press Club leads the agitation. They want to threaten us, but we are ready to face any consequence.”
Bala drew the cartoon after local labourer P Essakkimuthu set his wife and children ablaze before immolating himself outside the Tirunelveli Collectorate on October 23. Essakkimuthu had borrowed Rs 1.45 lakh from a moneylender, identified as Muthulakshmi. While the couple repaid more than Rs 2 lakh with 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.
Bala had said that he made the cartoon out of rage. “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.”