Raipur journalist accused of ‘prostitution’ and sent to prison

Raipur Police on Monday added three new sections, relating to Computer Act and Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, against the journalist Nilesh Sharmawho was first held for a complaint about his writings that used satire to criticize the state government.

The complaint against Sharma was filed by a ruling congressman, Khilawan Nishad, who objected to his ‘Ghurwa ke maati’ column on his India Writers web portal, calling him a ‘member of the Godi media’ and the accusing him of “attempting to create discord within the government” within the framework of an “agenda”.

Sharma’s writings targeted the Congress government, using fictitious or real names for its members, including ministers and bureaucrats. Also during the BJP government in Chhattisgarh, Sharma wrote a series of political satires under the name Chokhelal.

After the complaint, the India Writers portal was deactivated.

After Sharma’s arrest, police claimed they found “objectionable content” on her phone, unrelated to the initial arrest. On Monday, he was transferred to Bilaspur prison. His family said they were “threatened” not to speak to the media and not be allowed to meet him.

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The charges Sharma currently faces fall under Sections 67 A (penalty for publishing or transmitting material containing sexually explicit acts, etc., in electronic form) of the Computers Act, 4 (penalty for living on the income of prostitution) and 5 ( procuring, inducing or taking [person] for prostitution) of the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA).

Previously, on Nishad’s complaint, Sharma had been convicted under IPC Sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to cause a breach of the peace), 505(1)(b) (making, publishing or disseminating any statement , rumor or report) and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity or hatred between classes).

In a press release, which bore no signature, Raipur Police said Sharma engaged in “prostitution, blackmail and lewd conversations with both genders”. Police also claimed he had documents and phone records of a “confidential nature” and “ruined the names of journalists and journalism”.

In his last column before his arrest, Sharma wrote about the much-talked-about Congress plan but never confirmed to change his chief minister after two and a half years under the deal struck between CM Bhupesh Singh Baghel and his rival TS Singh Deo. Previously, Sharma’s articles using disguised names were seen as critical of people believed to be close to Baghel.

Incidentally, the Chhattisgarh government and the state Congress have set up “false news committees”. Neither has raised any concerns about Sharma’s writings.

Sharma started his career in local Hindi newspapers in 2006. He first started a magazine called India Writers and then the web portal about four years ago. As well as accusing Sharma of an “agenda”, Nishad called the language of his articles “obscene”. His specific complaint related to an article published on March 1 under the title “Wah Wah Khel Shuru Ho Gaya (Wow, the game has begun)”. He was arrested the following evening.

BJP leader and former CM Raman Singh said, “Those who promised to pass a law to protect journalists are the ones who target them because of satirical articles.”

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