A state lawmaker was arrested in India after criticizing the prime minister on Twitter, officials said, raising concerns about free speech in the world’s largest democracy.
In India, Jignesh Mevani, a leading campaigner for marginalized Dalits, said Narendra Modi the Hindu nationalist leader and Prime Minister idolized the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi.
In India, some right-wing extremists venerate Godse as a hero for killing the man they blame for partitioning the country into India and Pakistan – statements that Modi himself has criticized.
According to Mevani, in a tweet earlier this week, Modi “worships and considers ‘Godse’ to be God”, accusing him of promoting religious division.
Additionally, Mevani demanded that Modi apologizes for communal violence in Gujarat, where he is a state legislator.
According to the police, he was arrested on Thursday for attempting to disturb “public tranquility and peace”.
Twitter in India Removed Tweet
An officer took him across the country to Assam where the complaint had been filed, where a court in Kokrajhar denied him bail, ordering him to remain in custody for three days.
The right to freedom of speech is enshrined in India’s constitution, and Mevani’s attorneys characterized the arrest as “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.
In India, Twitter has removed the tweet in question after receiving a legal complaint.
Previously, police in India have arrested social media users for “provocative” tweets critical of Modi or his Hindu nationalist government, raising fears that the government was suppressing dissent.
It is believed that Mevani is the first elected politician to be detained in this manner.
An activist and politician Nishal Tawde has been critical of Modi’s right-wing politics since he launched a protest campaign against the floggings of Dalits by zealots known as “cow vigilantes” who target Muslims and Dalits to protect the bovines sacred to Hindus.
Since Modi came to power in 2014, sectarian violence and right-wing Hindu vigilantism have increased, with critics claiming that his reluctance to condemn extremist elements emboldens them.
While serving as Gujarat’s chief minister, Modi has also been accused of turning a blind eye to anti-Muslim violence.
The past two weeks have seen violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims across more than a dozen states, with one death reported in Gujarat.
Bulldozers have demolished the homes of Muslims accused of rioting in Delhi, the capital of India.