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

    Comment number 54.

    For a country that pretends to be competing with the west on technology, growth and ambition. It still acts like a third world country.. About time the government, the police and the military understand they are there to server the PUBLIC. Not the PUBLIC to serve them..

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    I am sure that there are many more important other reasons why many people are angry in India, endemic political corruption, corporate coruption, appalling water supply, MASSIVE growing disparity in wages, growing poverty, but hey, a questionable comment on Facebook is media frenzy fashionable & if you have access to it in India beware, because corrupt politicians/corporates/police etc FEAR YOU

  • Comment number 52.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Wherever you go in the world, the rule of law is first and foremost a tool of convenience for the ruling class. The administration of justice is but a secondary function of legal systems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Police misusing their power is quite common in India and they will never get punished. In fact they were just following the orders of their political masters. In India if you are a state employee when you do the right thing you will be demoted or suspended from your work, and when you do the wrong thing you will be rewarded with promotion. There is no place for honest people.

  • Comment number 49.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Mr. Thackeray was a self-proclaimed critic of many of India's dignitaries, both alive and the dead kind: One would hope that he would be turning in his ashes if he realised what a mockery of democracy his beloved state had descended to - that to, so soon after his demise. However, his legacy remains in the ineffectuality of the coppers to cop the real culprits: the moral mercenaries.

  • Comment number 47.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Good riddance to Bal Thackeray. No one arrested him for his hateful views that stirred up the moronic masses and caused hundreds of deaths. Doubtless Inspector Knacker of special branch will be cooperating with the Indian police to have me extradited.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    There is a steady decline of basic Liberty in India in the past few years.Unchecked wanton levels of Corruption breed Monsters who abuse Power.Let's hope more Mummy's boys and callous Middle class come out to support the 'Indian Spring' started by Anna Hazare.Dont wait untill the fire reaches ur door.Drugs and Guns have also started to come.Hurry up Come.Join.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    The UK is next, with Cameron abolishing routes for appeal and effectively forming a dictatorship under the pretence of economic wartime (as he put it yesterday).

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    If you can't even own the words that come out of your mouth, or that you type onto a screen, what can you own?

    India's Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal has absolutely no idea about individual liberty or freedom of expression. If you want to know who rules you, just ask who you're not allowed to criticise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    It seems that in India, as in the UK, disagreeing with popular public opinion is now a criminal offence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The path to free speech is a long one. Despite the idiots who made these arrests it's good to hear that many voices, including some from government, have been raised in defence of the 'offenders'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The UK is little better.

    We have people getting locked up here for giving opinions and making risky jokes on social networking sites, and its pathetic

    The only way to beat this ridiculous attitude taken by the police is to swamp social networking sites with risky humour and off colour opinions. They simply can't arrest everyone

    This is called the "Streisand effect" and its extremely effective!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Ever since the introduction of social networking there has been a push towards using real life names in place of handles. I personally have always refused to sign up for any site that insists on knowing my real identity because of stupid incidents like this.

    Anonymity and privacy must be taken more seriously. I would hope that one day everyone on the net is untraceable.

    Now that's free speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Can anybody show those officers who arrested the girls and the responsible politicians the below BBC post. and see what they will do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Be careful.. BigB is watching :)
    Well, why blame the govt?Its specific to 1 state and the police are operating under the goons who took action...
    Also, she is just 21 yrs old and talking on FB by putting comments which are private to her friends or to public its just speaking in public in tram/ train... so why police those things..its stupid politics nothing else...dnt read too much into this

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    @31. Muppet Master
    "And you actually believe that, do you? What a wonderfully romantic notion"

    I wish I could take the credit for those words but can't. A much smarter man than I am beat to it about 200 years ago: Thomas Jefferson (1826). I think that's how far behind, at least, Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal morals are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    god i hate twitter


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