A woman in Mumbai was arrested this weekend for posting a comment on Facebook about the recent death of politician Bal Thackeray. A friend who “liked” the comment was also arrested.
According to the AFP, the two 21-year-old women were arrested on Sunday after criticizing the way people were mourning the death of Bal Thackeray.
Thackeray, the founder of the right wing Shiv Sena party, was mourned by hundreds of thousands of people in Mumbai on Saturday. The funeral put the city in a virtual standstill as businesses, restaurants, and taxi services shut down for the day. Shaheen Dhada, the woman who wrote the controversial Facebook post, said that it was wrong to have a bandh (city shut down) for a person like Thackery.
“Respect is earned, not given and definitely not forced. Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear and not due to respect.”
Police Inspector Uttam Sonawane said:
“Her comment said people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a ‘bandh’ for that.”
Dhada, and Renu Srinivasan (the friend who liked the Facebook comment) were arrested for “promoting promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.” The two women were also charged with using “grossly offensive” speech online and for “insulting or outraging religious feelings.” The CS Monitor reports that each count carries a three year prison sentence.
The two women were released on bail Monday morning.
In addition to the possible nine-year prison sentence for liking a Facebook post, the two girl’s were also subjected to further punishment by a group of Shiv Sena activists. The AFP reports that Thackeray’s supporters vandalized Dhada’s uncle’s clinic. Dr. Dhada said that his clinic suffered nearly two million rupees ($36,500) worth of damage.
Press Council of India chief Markandev Katju urged chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to drop the charges against the two girls.
Katju wrote a letter to the Maharashtra state government arguing that the laws were unfairly enforced to punish Thackery’s detractors.
“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.”