Outrage at India arrests over Facebook post

 
Internet user in Hyderabad, India, file pic In recent months, Indian police have acted against several people for their posts on Facebook or Twitter

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The arrest of two women on Monday over a comment on Facebook has sparked off widespread anger in India.

One of the women had criticised the shutdown of Mumbai in her post, after the death of politician Bal Thackeray, while the other "liked" the comment.

The women, accused of "promoting enmity between classes", were released on bail after appearing in court.

The death of the controversial Hindu nationalist politician on Saturday afternoon brought Mumbai to a halt.

In her Facebook comment on Sunday, 21-year-old Shaheen Dhanda wrote: "People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a 'bandh' [shutdown] for that."

Her 20-year-old friend Renu Srinivasan 'liked' the status.

'Abuse of authority'

The Times of India newspaper responded with the headline: "Shame: 2 girls arrested for harmless online comment."

The newspaper said the arrests were a "clear case of abuse of authority".

"The girl was not slandering anybody, nor was she promoting hatred towards any community".

The newspaper said the charges should be dropped and a case of "wrongful arrest" registered against the police.

Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju has written a letter to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan criticising the arrests.

"We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. In fact, this arrest itself appears to be a criminal act, since... it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime," Mr Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said.

Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency that he was "deeply saddened" by the arrests.

"It is their point of view, and enforcement of these laws are not to ban people from expressing their views," he said.

In recent months, police have arrested a number of people in cases which are being seen as a test of India's commitment to freedom of speech.

In October, Ravi Srinivasan, a 46-year-old businessman in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry, was arrested for a tweet criticising Karti Chidambaram, son of Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram. He was later released on bail.

In September, there was outrage when a cartoonist was jailed in Mumbai on charges of sedition for his anti-corruption drawings. The charges were later dropped.

And in April, the West Bengal government arrested a teacher who had emailed to friends a cartoon that was critical of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He too was later released on bail.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 34.

    The problem is the blurring of public and private comment and between published media and private individuals that make comments that can in theory be read by anyone, although normally only intended for their friends/colleagues. The law and peoples expectations haven't caught up to this reality - a politician should be no more surprised to be attacked on twitter than in a pub, for example.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 33.

    "The condition upon which nature has given liberty to man is eternal vigilance." The Indians need to, by force if necessary, fight for their freedom not just from foreign oppressors, but insidious domestic ones too.

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
    ~Evelyn Hall, The Friends of Voltaire

    @29. David
    Correct :)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 32.

    30.
    Chris

    Now we know why you should NEVER give your real name on the Internet!
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    More like your real IP address

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    28.Bastiat
    "We are all born free, free to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion"
    =====
    And you actually believe that, do you? What a wonderfully romantic notion

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 30.

    Now we know why you should NEVER give your real name on the Internet!

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 29.

    @21.KickAssAndGiggle

    So free speech is only free so long as it dosen't offend?

    Then it's not free at all. Free speech is a case of all or nothing. If you restrict what people can say at all, then it's no longer free speech.

    If I want to publicly reveal my love for Adolf Hitler then it's my right to do so, and anyone that arrests me for it is a bloody hippocrite

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 28.

    This is truly grotesque & at least 240 years behind USA's correct notion of a free press being essential to a free society.

    We are all born free, free to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the primitive mindset of India's ruling class. If Indians want to be free they'll need to remove these Stasi censors.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 27.

    @22 LabourBrokeBritain

    Does that apply to people commenting on this social media too ?

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 26.

    I am at a loss why this person could be bothered commenting on such a news item - there must be better more interesting stuff to comment on?? However, the Indians are using this edition to really bag their pollies.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 25.

    Isn't "social media" wonderful. Governments around the world have yet another avenue of control over their citizens. Disagree with their view, and they will arrest you for your opinion. Control-freak heaven

    Another reason to aviod, or be very careful them altogether

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 24.

    The fellow who died was a virulent hate-monger most of his life. He deserves to be excoriated. The two girls are brave, just like Malala in Pakistan.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 22.

    Even if some people don't have respect for others beliefs we should learn to tolerate it.. we can't put everyone in jail. just because a stupid lady is out of her mind we can't go down to her standards we should have honor ...If we learn to ignore these people we can have a better society and no one will ever value some wage comments..

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 21.

    @10,

    There is a difference between "free speech" and "say whatever the hell you want".

    The reason we have to have laws to cntrol this is people are too dumb to realise they are not synonyms.

    However, this case in India is disgraceful, but don't compare it to Britain, because it is not comparable. Editors Pick? Having a laugh BBC...

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 20.

    17.
    UK Government Communism
    These women are sick and disrespectful making a mockery of the dead is worthy of a sentence.
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    What planet do you live on ? should we just arrest everyone who mocks the dead ? we would have no comedians !

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 19.

    @17. UK Government Communism

    The beauty of a free society is that "Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." If an idea in society is rubbish, we'll accord those people's views as much time as they deserve. But to imprison people for their views, even considered stupid by today's standards, is immoral.

    What if the Govt censors disapprove of your views tomorrow?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    Why doesn't the UK stop all aid to India in response to this outrageous suppresion of the right of free speech?

    Oh, sorry, UK already has stopped aid to India ... because Indian govt wouldn't buy our military equipment.

  • rate this
    -28

    Comment number 17.

    These women are sick and disrespectful making a mockery of the dead is worthy of a sentence.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    "the people there are wonderful but the political system is endemicly corrupt at all levels"
    I've never understood why people distinguish people and politicians in such an absolving way. it's a democracy, politicians ARE the people!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    You don't need an actual tyrant to have a tyranny, all you need are the laws. India's Tyrant today is Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal:

    "... these laws are not to ban people from expressing their views". = A lying rat.



    "There is nothing so fretting and vexatious, nothing so justly TERRIBLE to tyrants, and their tools and abettors, as a FREE PRESS."
    ~Samuel Adams, (Boston Gazette, 1768)

 

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