New Delhi: Telugu actor and film critic Kathi Mahesh, who was booked by the Telangana police for allegedly making statements “disrespecting” Hindu deities, was on July 9 “externed” from Hyderabad city for six months, police said.
Last month, some members of Hindu organisations including the Bajrang Dal had accused Mahesh, also a filmmaker, of making “derogatory” and “offensive” comments about the Ramayana during a debate on a local news channel.
Based on the complaint, a case was registered against Mahesh, a Dalit, under various Indian Penal Code sections, including 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), and he was questioned on July 2, police said.
“Kathi Mahesh has been externed from Hyderabad city for the next six months under the Telangana Prevention of Anti-Social and Hazardous Activities Act,” director general of police M. Mahendar Reddy told reporters.
This was in view of the “derogatory” statements made by him, “leading to hurting of sentiments of large sections of people and adversely affecting even tempo of life,” the DGP said.
Reddy said a show cause notice has also been served to TV9, the channel on which Mahesh expressed his views. “They not only conducted such a debate but also repeatedly aired Mahesh’s comments which further vitiated the atmosphere,’’ the DGP said.
According to the Indian Express, the police escorted Mahesh to his ancestral home in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district, and also placed the Hindu seer he was debating with under house detention to prevent him from taking out a procession against the actor.
A number of activists have spoken out against the police’s decision, calling it high-handed and harsh. “Banishing someone for expressing his views is ridiculous. Is Paripoornanda Saraswati (the Hindu seer Mahesh was arguing with) dictating terms to the KCR government? Who is running the state?” noted academician and Dalit activist Sujatha Surepally told Indian Express.
Civil rights activist G. Hargopal also spoke out against the police’s decision. “Instead of protecting a person’s right to dissent and oppose ideas, the state has become a party to violating the Constitutional rights of freedom of expressions and speech. These Hindu groups are exploiting Hindu sentiments and are undermining democracy. This is very sad and very dangerous,” Indian Express quoted him as saying.
(With PTI inputs)