G Bala, a freelance cartoonist was arrested on Sunday in connection with a caricature depicting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami allegedly in a distasteful manner over a recent family suicide. Bala was arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by Tiruneveli District Collector Sandeep Nanduri, who was also caricatured in the cartoon along with the city police chief. Bala is based in Tirunelveli. He is described as one of the most popular cartoonists in the state with over 65,000 followers on Facebook. Bala’s political cartoons discussing various issues have had a key role in social media debates in Tamil Nadu. His profile on Linkedin describes him as a “Editorial Cartoonist at Journalist and WriterJournalist and Writer”
What is the issue?
A man and his wife had set themselves and their two kids afire at the Tirunelveli Collectorate complex allegedly due to harassment by a money-lender. Bala, a cartoonist by profession, drew a caricature of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Tiruneveli District Collector and city police chief. Several media houses reported that the couple had approached police and DM before setting themselves ablaze. While the woman and her two children died on the day of the incident i.e. October 23, the man succumbed to injuries later. Bala uploaded the cartoon on the website on October 26.
As per a top government official, Bala had posted the cartoon on October 24 night. “Over 38,000 people shared the cartoon. Taking notice of the cartoon, the district collector reported the matter to the Chief Secretary and DGP has ordered the arrest,” the officer said.
Based on the complaint, a case had been registered on November 1 under Indian Penal Code Section 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and under the Information Technology Act, it said, adding following investigation Bala was arrested.
Protesting the arrest, Chennai Press Club announced a demonstration in the state capital. “G Bala of Chennai has drawn distasteful cartoons about Tirunelveli District top officials and posted them on social media and in this regard the District Collector had given a complaint,” the release said.
Now, Tirunelveli District Court has granted bail to the cartoonist. He now says that he would continue to highlight the inefficiency of the government through his cartoons. “I did not commit a murder, so I have no regrets. I will continue to highlight the inefficiency of the government through my cartoon. I will continue; won’t stop,” Bala was quoted as saying by PTI.