KOLKATA – Indian police have detained a ruling party activist after she posted a meme superimposing the head of a state chief minister on a photograph of a Bollywood star in a see-through dress, an officer said Saturday.
The announcement injected controversy into campaigning ahead of polls opening in West Bengal state Sunday, where the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress are locked in a tense battle for votes in the country’s general election.
Priyanka Sharma, a local BJP youth activist, was arrested for sharing a viral meme on Facebook that superimposed the head of Trinamool leader and state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on a picture of actress Priyanka Chopra at the Met Gala in New York last week.
Sharma faces charges under India’s Information Technology Act which punishes the transmission of “obscene” or “lascivious” material in electronic form, police said in the city of Howrah.
“We arrested a BJP leader Priyanka Sharma Thursday after a complaint was lodged against her saying that she had posted a morphed photograph mocking the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on a social networking site,” Anant Nag, Howrah’s deputy commissioner of police, said.
He said the complaint had been made by a local leader from Banerjee’s party.
The Information Technology Act and other laws have frequently been deployed by politicians from all parties seeking to stifle social media criticism.
Another political worker was arrested in West Bengal last year for posting allegedly obscene pictures and comments about the chief minister, while two people were jailed in the state in 2017 after they criticized local police over traffic restrictions.
In northern Uttar Pradesh state, a man was arrested last year for a post targeting BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
A journalist in northeastern Manipur state was also jailed last year for allegedly criticizing the state’s BJP chief minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.