Chhattisgarh’s Congress Government Arrests Journalist For A Satire Column
Nilesh Sharma has been kept at Bilaspur jail, more than 100 kilometres from his house.
The Chhattisgarh Police on 2 March arrested a journalist for a satire article he published about the ruling state government.
Nilesh Sharma, 38, runs a portal and a magazine where he critically comments on government functioning and politics.
Arrested from state capital Raipur, Sharma was reportedly shifted to Bilaspur jail on 5 March, more than a hundred kilometres away from his home.
The complainant, as reported by various media houses, is Khilawan Nishad, a Congress party member, said to be close to both Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and state Health Minister T S Singhdeo.
Nishad’s complaint reportedly said that the fictional characters in an article by Sharma under his ‘Ghurwa Ke Maati’ column, resembled state ministers and other Congress leaders.
Based on Nishad’s complaint, a first information report (FIR) was registered at Civil Lines Police Station in Raipur district on 2 March (number 133/2022).
The portal run by the journalist is called ‘Indiawriters.co.in’, which currently cannot be accessed as the page says it’s under maintenance. Sharma also brings out a magazine titled India Writers. His ‘Ghurwa Ke Maati’ columns are quite popular.
The article for which Sharma has been sent to jail is about the endless wait by Singhdeo for becoming the state chief minister as promised.
In 2018, when the state went to elections, Congress party came to power. However, a chaos soon erupted as supporters of two big leaders — Baghel and Singhdeo — wanted their man to be the chief minister. The senior party brass in Delhi suggested a compromise, where both of them were to serve as chief minister for two-and-half years each. The order was verbal and made only to calm down the clashes between party workers.
More than two-and-half years have passed since then, but Baghel is still serving as Chief Minister of the state.
Supporters of Singhdeo, who comes from a royal background and is the current titular Maharaja of Surguja, have begun to agitate in order to have their leader as chief minister. Singhdeo is often referred to as ‘T S Baba’ by his supporters.
Sharma’s article was a jibe at this ongoing struggle over the CM’s chair. The journalist referred to Singhdeo as ‘baba’, saying ‘baba bhole hain’ (he is a simpleton) and Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi as ‘sethani’. In another reference, he referred to Singhdeo as ‘Jai’ from the famous ‘Jai-Veeru’ duo from the film Sholay.
You can read the article below, as posted by a Twitter user.
Swarajya called up the Civil Lines Police Station to seek further information about the case but the station in-charge said “the matter is too big” and he was not allowed to share any details with the media.
Asked if Sharma has been shifted to Bilaspur Jail, he said “no”.
On the citizen’s portal of the state, the FIR status says 'sensitive'. (See in the picture below).
The page shows the IPC sections under which Sharma has been booked. They are 504 (intentionally insulting), 505(1)(b) (spreading rumors) and 505(2) (statements promoting enmity).
The local media has reported the reason for Sharma’s arrest as ‘spreading of fake news’ against the state government and its ministers.
“We have registered the FIR as Sharma was writing baseless articles spreading misinformation and rumors,” Indian Express has quoted a “senior police officer” as saying.
Below is the order issued on 4 March by Raipur district magistrate. The order says that Sharma was sent to Raipur jail on 3 March and had been ordered to be shifted to Bilaspur jail.
The family of Sharma was informed about the transfer, the order says.
In October, two journalists from another web portal were also similarly arrested in Chhattisgarh for allegedly publishing a “misleading and baseless report” against Congress lawmakers and extorting money from them.
Ironically, in 2019, the Chhattisgarh government shared with public a draft law to protect journalists. The bill was called ‘Protection of Media Person Act’.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.