An Itanagar court of Tuesday granted bail to famous graffiti artist from Assam, Neelim Mahanta, who was arrested by Arunachal police on Sunday.
The graffiti artist was arrested allegedly over his artwork protesting the construction of a mega dam project. He was taken into custody by Itanagar police from his residence in Assam’s Lakhimpur on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the government of Arunachal Pradesh has released a statement over his arrest. It attributed the reactions on social and mainstream media largely to ‘misinformation’.
Arunachal government clarified that there was no intention to curb the freedom of expression. Via an official release, a government spokesperson said that the arrests had not been made against any kind of anti-dam or any other protests.
The government clarified that no protesters were arrested, but only two individuals, who had defaced a public property.
Notably, the state celebrated 50 years of existence and the ‘Wall of Harmony’ was commissioned by the government to commemorate the celebrations through public art on the State Civil Secretariat boundary wall along the National Highway through the capital Itanagar.
The statement read, “The ‘Wall of Harmony’ not only became a center of attraction but also a proud depiction of the glorious history of Arunachal Pradesh since its formation to till date.”
“The aforementioned two individuals by their act of defacing the ‘Wall of Harmony’ has not only encroached into public property but also hurt the sentiments of all Arunachalees, who take much pride in their glorious past,” it added.
The statement further read, “While the Government of Arunachal Pradesh has no issues with the ‘intent’ of the two individuals, it cannot be lenient to any act that borders around ‘crime’ that also goes against the popular sentiments of its people,” adding, “As far as the present case goes, the matter is before the Hon’ble Court and the state government will abide by its decision.”
Earlier in the day, iconic Assamese singer, Zubeen Garg had taken to social media to protest his arrest. Sharing one of Mahanta’s artworks, he wrote, “Free souls cannot be stopped in cages. Free Neelim.”