Nepal Police on Thursday arrested rapper VTEN, original name Samir Lama aged 22 years. In a report they have accused him of producing/sharing ‘uncultured content’ in his song ‘Hami Yestai Tah Ho Ni Bro’ and for sharing an image of himself adorning a police uniform while in an act of sorting marijuana – with a cigarette in his mouth on Facebook.
In the controversial song, ‘Hami Yestai Tah Ho Ni Bro’, rapper is heard using racial and verbal slangs, and has claimed that he drinks liquor at the police station – the video which had amassed 18 million views has since been deleted. According to the police, Rapper VTEN is being charged of indulging in ‘anti-social behaviour’ and promoting consumption of illegal drugs, ‘marijuana’ to be exact.
His arrest, and an increasing trend of arresting artists for their content has encouraged an important debate within the community – a constitutionally guaranteed right to be precise – ‘Freedom of Speech/Expression’. In relation to VTEN’s arrest, Advocate Rastra Timalsena is of the belief that Nepal Police has misused its authority and undermined the Nepali constitution.
Speaking to Advocate Timalsena, he has said that VTEN’s arrest is a case of moral-policing – it is not the police’s responsibility to define what is cultured and what is uncultured content – that part is the judiciary’s responsibility. According to him, Nepal Police should have first reached out to the court for an arrest warrant and then made the arrest – however, what they instead did was issue an ’emergency arrest warrant’ – a legal act, but a misuse of authority. For example, he says that an ’emergency arrest warrant’ can only be issued when Nepal Police believe that the accused could flee the country – in the case of VTEN’s arrest, Nepal Police does not have enough evidence to prove that he would flee the country.
Reversing the process, police first took the accused into custody, and now are preparing to take him to court – he was presented in the District Administration Office yesterday. Another point of concern is that if he is not released today – Tihar Holidays are approaching, wherein government offices will be closed, and that his release from custody will be delayed.
According to Advocate Timalsena, more than the video, him sharing a photo of himself adorning a police uniform while indulging in an illegal act is what landed him into more trouble. However, he is also of the belief, that artists enjoy a more degree of freedom of expression. Although not Advocate Timalsena’s words, ‘Rapper VTEN could be making an artistic representation with the image – trying to get the society to think about a range of issues including corruption within the department, however that is merely our opinion. No matter what the content, its legality/illegality is the subject of a court’s decision, as per what the constitution dictates – not the police department’s.
Advocate Rastra Timalsena, also a YouTuber vlogging from Random Nepali, is a huge defender of ‘Freedom of Expression/Speech’ – earlier, in June, he had fought a case wherein a comedian, Pramesh Gautam was taken in custody for criticising a film. While the court gave a clean chit to the comedian, he nevertheless had to spend 5 days in custody – and an even graver concern – he has not criticised another film since.