Jailed for a rasagola tweet?

Dubai: Social media users are up in arms at the arrest of analyst and writer Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, allegedly for a tweet on the origin of the Indian dessert rasagola.

Indian newspaper The Hindu quoted his lawyer as saying he was arrested in a case that related to a conversation on Twitter involving several people about the origin of rasagola more than a year ago.

The report was soon shared by several social media users, with many crying out against the attempt to stifle freedom of expression in India.

@vijucherian tweeted about the case, writing: “#AbhijitIyerMitra (@Iyervval) got arrested in Odisha for a conversation he had a year ago on social media about the origin of Rasogola! Yes, it’s 2018 and you read it right, Rasagola. This is beyond bizarre!!”

Lawyer @apargupta84 added: “More people need to speak up in support of @Iyervval. [He] has been sent to 14 days of judicial custody in Odisha for a year old tweet on Rasagola @Naveen_Odisha. Urge the Law Minister @rsprasad to urgently commence a review process of all criminal laws which impact free expression.”

A petition demanding his release has been signed by almost 3,000 people so far, including several prominent journalists. Tweep @AartiTikoo, who started the petition, tweeted to the Indian Prime Minister, writing: “Dear Prime Minister @narendramodi, quite admirable that you are active on social media. So, I am sure you are aware that in India one can get arrested, like my friend @Iyervval, for a tweet on the origin of Rasagola. That’s the democracy and freedom we Indians enjoy under your government.”

Journalist @KanchanGupta wrote: “We are slipping into a zone where #freedom is in danger. It’s outrageous that Abhijit Iyer-Mitra @Iyervval has been arrested by #Odisha Police on risible charges and denied bail. Please read and circulate my protest and appeal. Fight for your, his and everybody’s liberty. #India”

On Twitter, #FreeAbhijit and #IStandWithAbhijit were being used by some users to raise awareness on this case.

Author @nilanjanaroy tweeted: “Absurd, vindictive, to jail @iyervval for 14 days over a rasogolla-origin tweet. He’s a shock-jock, but trawling through his year-old tweets to fuel specious outrage charges is an illustration of how much is wrong with India’s Freedom of Expression laws.”

Author @MakrandParanspe said: “Please don’t victimise or politicise humour: Abhijit’s case makes us reflect not only on freedom of speech and expression, but also on the right of ordinary Indians to be funny, sarcastic, or ironic. Else, won’t we turn into a grim, humourless, intolerant, and hateful society?”

However, Iyer-Mitra was also at the receiving end of criticism for his comments against the Sun Temple in Konark, Odisha last week. Indian newspaper, The Statesmen, reported that he had offered an unconditional and unreserved apology for his “stupidity” before a committee of the Odisha Assembly. The video in question showed him commenting on the architectural carvings at the temple, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.


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