Sameet Thakkar, a prominent Twitter user who is highly critical of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra was arrested by a joint team of Nagpur and Mumbai Police on Saturday (October 24) for posting allegedly derogatory content against the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son, Aaditya Thackeray on social media. Thakkar has been arrested following a complaint by a Shiv Sena leader against the Twitter user calling Uddhav Thackeray a “modern-day Aurungzeb”, and his son – Aaditya Thackeray ‘Mohammad Azam Shah of Maharashtra, aka baby penguin.’ Almost instantly, social media erupted in Thakkar’s support, with users taking to trend #BabyPenguin on the microblogging platform.
The arrest of Sameet Thakkar by the Maharashtra Police serves as a case in point for anybody to study the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s absolute intolerance and abject aversion to free speech. Already, the government, which is allegedly led by the Shiv Sena has occupied itself to relentlessly hounding Arnab Goswami and Republic Media Network. Goon-like workers of the Shiv Sena have also, for the past one year, taken it upon themselves to harass anybody even remotely critical of their party supremos and their government at large. As is known already, the reigns of power in Maharashtra rest with anybody but the person who is currently the Chief Minister. As such, the Shiv Sena’s brutal crackdown on citizens airing their free views in a democratic setup is nothing more than an attempt at primitive power projection, being achieved by resorting to no less than ‘goondaism’ at times too.
In order to convince the public that it is indeed the Shiv Sena which is in control of the state, free speech is being trampled upon in broad daylight, even as vendetta campaigns are pursued against senior journalists without any modicum of shame. Take for example the hounding of Republic TV and its entire staff by law enforcing agencies in Mumbai. Under the commandeering of Mumbai Commissioner Param Bir Singh, the senior journalist and his media network are being asked to submit details of every minute transaction in the past three years. Details of every journalist associated with the network, apart from profound information like costs of the coffee vending machine, air-conditioning equipment, furniture, gardening, makeup, suits and even hairbrush, toilet paper, tissue papers, A4 paper and other stationery items are being sought by the Mumbai Police.
This, complemented with the fact that senior journalists associated with the news channel are being called in for questioning, as though they have committed some crime by being associated with Republic TV, gives us a birds-eye view about the conditions which prevail in the state currently. Apart from the vendetta against Republic and hounding of Sameet Thakkar, it was earlier reported how Shiv Sena goons had thrashed a 62-year-old retired navy officer – Madan Sharma in broad daylight, causing him grievous eye injuries. What triggered the violence against the retired officer who protected India’s seas for a large part of his life was a WhatsApp forward on Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, which according to the Shiv Sena was derogatory.
Shortly after the Shiv Sena forming the government in Maharashtra, goons of the party now in power with the help of Congress and NCP had taken to tonsure a man after physically assaulting him in broad daylight. The man had dared to speak up against the comparison drawn by Uddhav Thackeray between the Jamia Milia fiasco last year and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, which in itself was an outrageous thing to do. However, bolstered by a sense of security due to the party supremo being the Chief Minister, the goons, as stated above, took it upon themselves to ensure that the people of the state knew who was now in power.
Having formed an unholy alliance with the NCP and Congress, the Shiv Sena has very little power to wield in the Maharashtra government, which is precisely why it is cracking down on citizens airing their views, and also going after media houses like Republic which dare question the Sena supremo and his minions. Being a part of the incompetent government that it claims to lead, Sena’s only way to project itself as a force to be reckoned with in Maharashtra is by hounding free press and harassing citizens.