BANGALORE: Indian Police have arrested actor and activist Chetan Kumar in the southern Indian state of Karnataka over a tweet criticizing one of the judges’ hearing pleas against the ban on hijab in schools, causing outrage online.
The police action comes a week after Kumar, a US citizen, questioned in a Twitter post whether Justice Krishna Dixit has “the clarity required” to oversee the hijab row case after previously making “disturbing comments” in a rape case.
“Justice Krishna Dixit made such disturbing comments in a rape case. Now, this same judge is determining whether hijabs are acceptable or not in government schools. Does he have the clarity required?” Kumar wrote on Twitter last week.
Kumar’s tweet from about two years ago referred to Dixit granting pre-arrest bail to the accused rapist after claiming that the woman’s statement was “a bit difficult to believe”.
“The explanation offered by her that after the perpetration of the act she was tired and fell asleep is unbecoming of an Indian woman,” the judge said in 2020. He added that it was “not the way our women react when they are ravished”.
Kumar’s wife Megha conducted a Facebook live on Tuesday evening after his arrest and said no one informed the family about the arrest or the reason, the Hindustan Times reported.
On Tuesday evening, the police issued a statement, announcing that Kumar had been arrested for his tweet under “Intent to incite a class or community to commit an offense against another class or community” and for “intentionally insulting, thereby giving provocation to any person to break public peace” of the Indian Penal Code, local news reported.
The ban on hijab in colleges in Karnataka state has triggered a major fight amid growing concerns that the attacks on Muslim symbols and practices are part of the larger Hindu far-right agenda of imposing majoritarian values on minorities.
A panel of three judges at the Karnataka High Court is hearing various petitions challenging the ban.
Earlier this month, hijab-wearing Muslim girl students were barred from entering schools and colleges across the state.
Following Kumar’s arrest, many took to Twitter to slam the move by authorities and called for the actor’s immediate release.
Former Indian actress and politician Divya Spandana, also known as Ramya tweeted, “What is wrong with this tweet for the police to arrest Chetan?”
Twitter user Sankul Sonawane wrote that Kumar “has been targeted for months by [Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party] BJP in Karnataka for working towards the upliftment of the marginalized!
“The witch hunt must stop & he must be released immediately!”
Writer Suraj Kumar Bauddh tweeted in support of Kumar, saying, “This is a very cowardly and cheap act of the government.”