On November 11, 2016, authorities arrested Abhishek Mishra, a civil engineering student, for allegedly publishing offensive posts on Facebook.
Mr. Mishra is a Right to Information (RTI) activist and a prominent YouTube personality, who regularly uses this and other social media channels to comment on politics. According to police sources, Mr. Mishra published to his Facebook profile posts that were allegedly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan for their role in the government’s controversial demonetization campaign. Police received a complaint of the post from Chief Minister Chauhan and, on November 11, arrested Mr. Mishra for violating section 469 of the Indian Penal Code (forgery for purpose of harming reputation) and section 66C of the Indian Technology Act, 2000 (identity theft). On November 13, the authorities released Mr. Mishra on bail; however, this was only after they reportedly deleted the Facebook post in question in addition to many others.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a student in retaliation for his nonviolent exercise of the rights to free expression and association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with the right to free expression, so long as it is exercised peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.