Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: The fourth pillar of the Indian democracy is crumbling. The country, which is the world’s largest democracy, is said to rest on the four pillars of the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, and the press. But, what happens when the government tries to muzzle journalists and news channels? Twitter users in India are calling it an #UndeclaredEmergency.

On Sunday, Indian editorial cartoonist, Satish Acharya @satishacharya tweeted: “Drop the cartoon and carry a photo! That’s how my cartoon column with Mail Today ended yesterday. That’s how the editor looked at a cartoon and cartoonist’s opinion.”

Acharya wrote on his website: “I have been battling to protect my freedom, to protect the sanctity of a cartoon column, for many days. May be for the editor it’s just three column space, but for a cartoonist it’s a whole world.”

He went on to list the reasons his cartoons were rejected.

“First they rejected a cartoon showing cow saying ‘The editor is not too happy with the cartoon with cow’. For a cartoon on lynching I received this message ‘There’s a bit of an issue. India Today Group has decided not to come out with any community based cartoons’. For a cartoon on Modi, they asked if I can ‘replace Modi’s character with any general BJP character’...”

Twitter user @Joydas posted: “Mail Today editor didn’t want people to see this cartoon by @satishacharya which shows a helpless Narendra Modi. So please don’t see it or share it or RT (retweet) this tweet.”

@tune2john added: “After #ABPNews now undeclared emergency on #cartoonist’s #FOE. Just how many excuses? No [catrtoons of] #Modi, no #cow, no #lynching etc. #Media instead of keeping watch on government, now #ModiGovt keeping watch on media!”

And @Sahil_Suddi tweeted: “In current undeclared emergency and censorship on media and artist, there is a need to support freedom of press and freedom of expression #ProtectDemocracy”

The conversation began when a popular Indian journalist, Punya Prasun Bajpai left the Hindi private news channel ABP, after he was told to not mention Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his script. This was followed by a direction to not use any of his pictures for stories on his show Masterstroke. In an episode, Bajpai had run a fact-check on Modi’s television and radio programme called Mann Ki Baat.

Suddenly his show that used to be one of the prime, high rated shows on the channel, saw satellite disturbances and a decline in it’s Television Rating Point (TRP).

Another journalist Abhisar Sharma also from ABP was suspended for 15 days for “mentioning Modi’s name in negative news”. Later, the entire senior editorial team was axed in one fell swoop.

These events kicked up a storm on social media. Many Indians started discussing freedom of expression and free press in the country.

@iamgauravgg tweeted: “Slowly it’s becoming a routine to silence the people who ask questions. #UndeclaredEmergency #BJP #PrayForIndia”

In an article on the news website, The Wire, Bajpai wrote: “Located right next to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters in Delhi is Soochna Bhawan and on its tenth floor is ground zero – the war room from where the government carries out its operation of monitoring television news channels across the country, day after day, 24×7. There’s a 200-member team that does just that.”

Tweep @natanaga posted: “We have an undeclared emergency, coercion of media, suppressing voice of dissent. Wish other leaders unite to have Intolerance Mukt Bharat (India free of intolerance).”