Reacting to his Facebook account being suspended for 24 hours for posting a video mocking the BJP's performance in the recently concluded Kerala Assembly elections, Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan called the move a "suppression of freedom of speech" and added that "this is becoming very tyrannical."
Quoting the poet, NDTV reported that Satchidanandan was barred from posting or commenting on Facebook for 24 hours on Friday after sharing a video he received as a WhatsApp forward.
"I was barred from posting or commenting on Facebook because I posted a widely shared video, a satire on BJP's defeat in Kerala. The clipping is from a movie where Hitler is addressing his soldiers after defeat, and the Malayalam commentary in it was about Amit Shah and senior BJP leaders speaking to party workers in Kerala after defeat. The post was a satire, it was critical but was not abusive of anyone," Satchidanandan told NDTV.
"I also received a warning from Facebook earlier on 21 April when I had put up a post against Modi demanding his resignation. There is a conspiracy between the government and Facebook because India is a big consumer. And BJP has a massive IT cell, they must be watching us, people who are known or have influence on others," Satchidanandan further told NDTV.
According to The News Minute, Satchidanandan was restricted from posting, liking, commenting and sharing posts for 24 hours. He was also barred from streaming on 'Facebook Live' for 30 days for violating the company's "community standards".
"On 21 April, I received a warning and that was for another funny comment. Before that, I started to notice that some of my comments were disappearing," said Satchidanandan.
"I feel such things can be expected time and again from now on. When I tried to post an article against the suppression of criticism that appeared in the medical journal Lancet, I received a message that said 'you are trying to post something other people on Facebook have found abusive.' So I feel that there are preying eyes behind critics like me," he further told The News Minute.
"It seems that from now on I may often face similar actions. Today when I tried to post an article that appeared in Lancet, on silencing criticism, I got a message that several people have found this post abusive. It seems there's a feeling in the government that more and more people are turning against it. It's obvious from the recent polls. It's a reflection of their fear and cowardice,"he told The New Indian Express.
On Saturday evening, medical journal The Lancet severely criticised the Narendra Modi government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis, saying that its actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussions are 'inexcusable'.
"There are three groups " one is the Union government, second Facebook itself and third a group that is close to the Centre, that keeps a close watch on opinion makers and then reports them to either the Centre or Facebook," he further told TNIE.
After his account was restored on late Saturday night, the poet posted on the social media site: "If the choice is between being on FB and being a democrat and a human rights defender, I have no doubt where I should stand."
He added in another post:
Twelve years of poetry and protest on FB can hardly be erased by twenty-four hours of silence.
Posted by Koyamparambath Satchidanandan on Saturday, May 8, 2021
"We have nothing to do with it. When Donald Trump and actor Kangana Ranaut's accounts were suspended, these forces hailed it. There can't be two standards; so no point in shedding crocodile tears. FB must have taken action as per its policy standard," Warrier said.
But many backed the poet and slammed Facebook's action.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, expressing solidarity with Satchidanandan, whom he described as one of state's "greatest living poets" tweeted:
Former state finance minister T M Thomas Iassac tweeted:
"In a democratic country like India, it should not have happened. It is an attack on [freedom of] speech and expression," said CPI(M) leader MV Jayarajan, told Hindustan Times.
The BJP-NDA, which fought the April 6 assembly polls with the fancy claim of winning at least 35 seats in Kerala, came a cropper as it failed to retain even its lone segment Nemom, even as all its major contestants, including ''Metroman'' E Sreedharan and party state chief K Surendran fell by the wayside.
With inputs from PTI