The absurd arrest of Abhijeet Iyer Mitra for joking about Odisha’s Konark Temple has exposed the weakness of India’s Free Speech Laws. But in this episode of #NewsKaJuice, Barkha Dutt—while calling for the immediate release of Iyer—argues that it also exposes his hypocrisy and that of his right-wing supporters.
Read the full script here:
Many of you may know the name: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra
A defence analyst and a writer, he has now been in jail for several weeks.
The charge against him is absolutely ridiculous.
In September, he posted a video of himself outside Odisha’s famed Konark Sun Temple.
In an obviously tongue-in-cheek take on the erotic sculptures at the temple, he punned that it should be called a Humple…
Later, he had a similarly satirical comment about the state’s Jagannath Temple.
An unsparing Naveen Patnaik government went after him for sullying regional pride.
A House panel of politicians from across the parties demanded — and got an apology — from a man who is otherwise an online motor-mouth…
And the Supreme Court denied him bail because he had inflamed religious sentiments.
Abhijeet must be freed. His incarceration is a farce.
But if the episode exposes how abused free speech is in India, it also tells you much more about… Abhijit Iyer-Mitra’s own hypocrisy
And the humbug and double standards of his friends in the right wing eco-system…
Human Rights groups have been a constant punching bag for Abhijit.
In July this year, he referred to them as Baboons who may multiply.
In September, he attacked Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia head of Human Rights Watch… For her critique of an operation in Kashmir…
He called her a highly-paid bimbo…
And in 2015, he sneered at Amnesty and accused it of being after money and publicity!
Well, guess what my friend.
While so many of your right-wing supporters fell absolutely silent…
Who do you think spoke up for you?
The same activists and journalists you spent your life slandering and vilifying.
This week Amnesty described your arrest as unjustified and called for respecting your freedom.
The same Amnesty you showed zero respect for… or even minimum politeness…
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra should NOT be in jail
But as odious as his arrest is, he is certainly not a victim.
After all, what has happened to him?
Isn’t this what he always demanded should happen to everyone else…
Today his friends say Abhijit is the victim of a blinkered mob mentality on religion…
But when Gauri Lankesh was assassinated, Abhijit Iyer-Mitra helpfully explained that “lynch mobs are spurred on by the same fake news that criminal Gauri spread.”
In September, when 28-year-old Sophia Lois was arrested for shouting anti-Modi slogans on board a plane, Abhijit said it violated DGCA rules.
In fact, he wanted the young woman to be in jail for up to a year…
Because “at the very least it would have corrected the deficient upbringing her family gave her on how to behave in public.”
So what about when your behaviour offends people then Abhijeet?
You have called for throwing Lefty scum in jail… or using a machine gun on them.
Ok, hyperbole yes… But no satire or humour here…
You have called for clowns of the human rights watch to be imprisoned as well…
And in 2017, when the Karnataka assembly called two editors to be put in prison for what they claimed was defamation you said…
“I totally support throwing editors in jail! It’s a healthy habit — must be encouraged — especially the ones who instigate stone pelters.”
Karma comes back to haunt all of us, doesn’t it?
Like they say, be careful about what you wish for, because you might just get it.
That you are behind bars and that bail has been denied to you is atrocious.
But what if instead of you, it was me in front of the Konark temple?
Making a joke about temple erotica.
Would the Hindu right-wing have spared me?
Or would they have called me a Muslim lover… A burkha instead of Barkha.
Or worse, a whore… Who is sullying Hindu tradition…
After all, this is language you have used routinely for women.
Phrases such as vacuous vamp appear on your timeline.
And when The Telegraph did a story on you that you didn’t like, you called them Presstitutes spreading their legs for Naveen’s money.
Your other great hero appears to be Vivek Agnihotri; the filmmaker who gave us this curious phrase Urban Naxals.
Basically gobbledygook for those all of you disagree with.
The man who calls all of us anti-national…
Well we don’t see Vivek Agnihotri quite leading the crusade for your release. Do we?
Instead it’s the liberals you and your friends call scum… Like historian Ram Guha who has spoken up for you…
On your Twitter Page, you snarkily insinuated his loyalties lay with Pakistan.
On his Twitter page, he reweeted Amnesty’s call for your release…
So when you do get bail… And I hope it’s very soon
Will you finally admit
That in the end, it was Indian Liberals… the ones you like to mock and humiliate
Who spoke up for you…
You Abhijit Mitra should never have been arrested
Yet, this is victimhood. It’s actually Irony.
See you next week
Also read: Are Hindus really the victims in India? Of what, asks Barkha Dutt