Vlogger Roddur Roy, who is infamous for his offensive vlogs on various personalities, dead and alive, was arrested from a resort in Goa on Tuesday (7 June) for abusing Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her nephew Abhishek and senior Trinamool ministers and functionaries.

By Jaideep Mazumdar

Roddur, whose original name is Anirban, had posted an expletive-laden vlog abusing the Chief Minister and others. In his YouTube vlog, Roy first directed his anger at former Trinamool minister Madan Mitra for travelling on a motorcycle along with his supporters down a busy Kolkata thoroughfare without a helmet and flouting traffic rules.

Roy then goes on to abuse Mamata Banerjee, her nephew and other Trinamool seniors in extremely foul language. He has been charged under 10 different sections of the Indian Penal Code, and the charges range from incitement, provocation and defamation to denigrating women.

He was arrested from a resort at Canacona beach in Goa by Kolkata Police. Two FIRs had been lodged at Kolkata’s Hare Street and Chitpur police stations — one by party MP Santanu Sen and another by Trinamool spokesperson Riju Dutta.

Roy, in his vlog, had also abused Kolkata Police and blamed the Trinamool, as well as the cops, for singer KK’s death after a performance in the city last week.

There can be little objection to Roy’s arrest. He clearly crossed a red line by heaping abuse on others, including a lady. His choice of expletives was, to put it mildly, in poor taste and worthy of unequivocal condemnation.

The vlogger comes across as a left-radical and an anarchist who is in the habit of using expletives and abusing others in his vlogs. Mamata Banerjee and her nephew, as well as her party colleagues, are not the first to be abused and slandered by Roy.

Roddur Roy has mocked, insulted, vilified and used offensive words against many others, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has also not spared icons like Rabindranath Tagore. And he isn’t new to controversies either. His vulgar parodies of Rabindrasangeet (songs written by Tagore) have earned him a lot of criticism. And many have objected to his rampant use of foul language in his vlogs.

But that is not the point. Two important points emerge from the arrest of Roddur Roy.

The first is that a vlogger, or anyone else for that matter, is free to publicly abuse, slander, berate and use extremely foul and provocative language against others, but not against Mamata Banerjee, her nephew and her party colleagues.

Bengal’s state machinery never acted against Roy all these years that he had been posting offensive vlogs abusing and insulting others, including Modi. There was no action against him for mocking Tagore and even insulting the icon or belittling him.

But Roy crossed a red line when he targeted Mamata Banerjee and her family and colleagues. That is ‘forbidden territory’ in Bengal. The state machinery will look the other way when Roy, or anyone else, abuses non-Trinamool politicians or personas revered by Bengalis. The most foul and vituperative terms can be used against even the Prime Minister. But never against Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek Banerjee and Trinamool netas.

The second point is the deafening silence of free speech advocates. Over the past few years, many who pose as defenders and upholders of free speech have been criticising the BJP and the Union government for curbing free speech and silencing opposition or critics.

Punitive action against, for instance, Munawar Faruqui for insulting or mocking Hindu deities amounts to ‘curbing free speech’ which, liberals hold, is absolute. Free speech includes the right to criticise or mock Hinduism, Hindu deities or Hindus. But that same freedom will be denied to those who criticise or mock other beliefs. Especially Abrahamic faiths.

Comedians, commentators, vloggers and sundry others, say free speech advocates, have every right to abuse BJP leaders including Prime Minister Modi. In fact, those who denigrate, abuse and slander Modi are lauded and celebrated by liberals and free speech advocates.

But the arrest of Roddur Roy for abusing Mamata Banerjee has not elicited even a murmur of protest from free speech advocates. They will not term the arrest as curbing free speech or throttling dissent. They will not see it as a loud indication of stifling of democracy by an ‘authoritarian’ politician in power.

And that’s the hypocrisy of free speech advocates and liberals. This episode — the arrest of Roy for abusing Mamata Banerjee and the abject failure of free speech advocates to criticise and oppose the arrest — is yet another example of the double standards of liberal.

This article first appeared in www.swarajyamag.com and it belongs to them.