Three days after he posted a satirical video about the Sun Temple in Konark, the Odisha state police arrested writer and defense analyst Abhijit Iyer-Mitra in New Delhi.
At around 2:30 pm on Thursday, his lawyer told ANI, "He has been told that a case has been registered against him in Odisha. He hasn't been told what the case is or who has registered it. He hasn't been given a copy of the FIR."
Iyer-Mitra was produced before the district court in Saket for a transit remand, according to media reports. "We haven't even been given a copy of the FIR so we can't say what the offenses are, who the complainant is or under what sections case has been registered," his lawyer said.
Two hours later, ANI reported that Iyer-Mitra had been granted bail on a surety of Rs. 1 lakh and that he has been asked to join an investigation in Odisha by September 28.
Some media reports suggest that Iyer-Mitra was detained under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): "deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs."
Iyer-Mitra, who writes about matters related to defense and security, is a senior fellow at at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
Iyer-Mitra's arrest comes three days after he posted sarcastic commentary about the world famous erotic carvings at the Sun Temple in Konark.
"Can this be a holy place? Not at all. This is a conspiracy against Hindus by Muslims who want to keep us down. Jai Sriram. In our new Ram temple, such obscene sculptures will not be there," he said in the video.
In the following tweet, Iyer-Mitra said, "Jokes aside this temple is just mind blowing. The sculptures are exquisite & and it has a great sense of symmetry & gravitas."
Odisha 9: my special message to you from the Konark temple expressing my utter disgust at this monumental conspiracy against the Hindu Civilisation pic.twitter.com/wJeqZPHRDk— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) September 16, 2018
Mitra's video caused a furor in the Odisha State Assembly. Lawmakers from both the ruling party, the Biju Janata Dal, and the Opposition, Congress, accused Iyer-Mitra of making "derogatory" comments about the temple.
BJD MLA Sanjay Dasburma said, "It is an insult to the state and its existence. Action should be taken against the man."
Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said, "It hurts the sentiments of Odisha irrespective of party and religion. He says the art and sculpture are contrary to Hindu culture. This is unwarranted and condemnable."
Mishra said that Iyer-Mitra should be prosecuted.
Following the uproar in the Assembly, Iyer-Mitra tweeted, "Happy to answer to anyone for my allegedly "distasteful" remarks. Says a lot about the abysmal intellectual Calibre of @Naveen_Odisha's MLA's the cant tell satire from seriousness."
On Thursday, the Odisha Assembly moved a privilege motion demanding action against Iyer-Mitra for hurting the sentiments of the Odisha people.
Iyer-Mitra's arrest today has triggered criticism. Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, "This is appalling. The archaic colonial laws that allow such arrests must be struck down. The Odisha Government must rise above such pettiness. The right to offend is fundamental to democracy."
Just heard that @Iyervval has been detailed by @DelhiPolice. He isn't answering his phone. Going to Nizamuddin police station to enquire about this UNBELIEVABLE happening. Stay safe, Abhijit, all of us are with you. https://t.co/ITN0e75sPj— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) September 20, 2018
Update: Spoke with @TweetinderKaul, @Iyervval's lawyer. Bail has been granted. Joint-hearing on 28th. Will move for Anticipatory before that. Matter will be taken up in the SC; @swamy39 is in the team. The Magistrate today was MAGNIFICENT. Matter rests for now. Well-done, all.— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) September 20, 2018