Repeat offence

Forgive Them Lord

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When they warn you about the dangers of downloading from the cyber world, this is probably what they mean. A ‘blasphemous’ image of Jesus Christ, holding a cigarette and a beer can, has led to a series of apologies over the past three years by those who had lifted it freely from the internet.

The latest to be stung is Tanaji Dnyandeo Lonkar, a former Shiv Sena corporator from Pune. The image was part of a 2013 calendar that was printed and distributed by him. As soon as it was published, Christian groups rose in protest. On 7 January, two lawyers filed a complaint with the Pune police commissioner and later initiated legal action against him. Lonkar, who says he is innocent, has withdrawn the calendar and blamed the printer for downloading the picture from the net.

Joseph Dias, of Christian Solidarity Forum, says his organisation has been tracking the offensive picture, and that it originated in Malaysia. It was first published in August 2007 by Makkal Osai, a Malaysian Tamil-language daily. They later apologised. Then, in February 2010, the authorities of St Joseph’s Girls’ Higher Secondary School in Meghalaya found this image in a textbook for primary school students. Placed near the letter ‘I’, its intended purpose was to make students say, “‘I’ for idol.” The textbooks were confiscated and the school principal filed an FIR against the Delhi-based publisher.

Recently, a Bangalore-based vernacular daily published the same image, and its editor had to issue a front-page apology after prominent citizens from the community protested. The picture has also surfaced in Gujarat, but here it was in a Christian journal. Dias says that Christian groups have approached Union Information Technology Minister Milind Deora to get the image removed from the internet. “As long as it’s there, people will continue to use it,” he says.