Over 300 Journalists, writers, and activists have signed a public statement condemning journalist Prashant Kanojia’s arrest by the Uttar Pradesh police and said his arrest has to be seen as an attack on the anti-caste activists. Kanojia, arrested by the UP police on August 18 and held in custody since then over a tweet. The statement was signed by many including poet Meena Kandasamy, Jignesh Mevani MLA, rights activist Teesta Setalvad, academics Suryakant Waghmore, Ravinder Kaur, Nikita Sud, Sneha Krishnan, Srilata Sircar, and Nayanika Mathur.
Read the unedited text of the statement:
On 18 August 2020, Bahujan journalist Prashant Kanojia was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police. He is being held in custody over a tweet he had forwarded, which he had immediately deleted upon learning that it contained fake news. This is a routine social media behaviour that one observes on the platform almost everyday.
However, this was used as a pretext for arresting Kanojia. Furthermore, the Allahabad High Court accepted the Uttar Pradesh government’s request that it be given four weeks to respond to his bail plea. This ensures that Kanojia remains incarcerated for an extended period of time.
This is not the first time Kanojia has been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police over a tweet. In a similar incident last year, he was detained for ‘objectionable comments’ against the Uttar Pradesh chief minister on Twitter. On that occasion, the Supreme Court had ordered his immediate release. However, the harassment has continued.
It is clear that the arrest and detention of Kanojia is politically motivated and driven by vendetta. It fits a larger pattern of Uttar Pradesh administration attempting to silence dissenting voices. In recent times it has repeatedly gone after activists and journalists alike using questionable legal pretexts. This is a clear attack on the right to free speech, and the Uttar Pradesh government needs to be held accountable for attempting to create this ‘chilling effect’ by intimidating and silencing its critics.
Prashant Kanojia is a well-respected journalist with a big social media following. Being an outspoken Bahujan with a mass following, who consistently raises issues of caste-based exclusion and violence, his arrest has to be seen as an attack on the anti-caste activists. We, the undersigned, condemn these intimidation and harassment tactics of the Uttar Pradesh government and demand Kanojia’s early and timely release.
We stand in solidarity with Prashant Kanojia.