Repeated cases of government gagging young mouths has created a debate whether our Constitution is really the highest authority in the nation
After Aseem Trivedi, the caricaturist who was arrested for his controversial cartoon said to degrade the national symbol, another assault has been made on freedom of speech and expression in Mumbai. In a Facebook post, Shaheen questioned the necessity of the bandh in Maharashtra observed for the demise of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Her friend Renu “liked” it. The two women were arrested within a few hours on charges of promoting religious enmity.
“The particular post doesn’t even once mention the name of the leader or any religion or sect, yet it was said to enrage sentiments,” says Senthilvel, a commerce student in a city college. “Then, what about those inflammatory speeches these netas give in election rallies? To capture caste votes, they too kindle negative emotions. Shouldn’t they also be arrested? Seeing such happenings, you really wonder if the Constitution is the highest authority of our nation.”
The event, however, has led to a number of posts, likes and shares supporting the women and questioning the Constitution and government. A copy of the letter by Press Council of India Chairperson Markandey Katju to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra has been put up on ‘Law school tips’, a page on Facebook. Liked by 5518 people, it has been shared 4529 times. A reply by the Chief Minister has also been uploaded.
Aanthai Kumar, a Tamil journalist, says, “Facebook has become a platform for youngsters to register their opinions and protests. Social networking sites are good examples of ‘cyber revolutions’ and ‘online freedom’. Any issue catches like a forest fire on the net.” ‘Aanthai Reporter’, his page on Facebook, has uploaded images to support the arrested women. Kumar says, “Yet, online revolutions don’t really translate into remedies. The impact is only felt on the monitors and not on the field. It leads to arguments and not action.”
There are people who feel that sites such as Facebook, as they are viral, unmonitored and free, should be used with caution. Anything that goes on the wall goes worldwide. Says Soundar, an ITI student, “I think there should be a line drawn on what to comment and how to comment. Why get into unwanted trouble?”
But nothing deters facebookers from speaking their minds. “So quick in arresting a powerless girl… so slow in arresting rapists backed by power,” reads a post by Bandhana Matharu, a design student.
“Young Indians are watching you. Behave yourself, India,” – the video campaign by The Hindu – has been posted on the wall of Mahendra Varman.
The Facebook user says that government often feels fidgety when youngsters arise against its wrongdoings. “The government has been repeatedly blocking all avenues for the citizens to air their opinions,” he writes.
“For example, RTI is a weapon for citizens. But now, the procedures of filing RTI are being made difficult in an attempt to reduce the number of filings and discourage people doing it.”
Similarly, when Aseem Trivedi was arrested, a number of cartoons, punch lines and posts were uploaded on Facebook to protest against the government. An online site ‘Cartoons against corruption’ by Aseem Trivedi teems with cartoons mocking the governing system and its loopholes. Anshul Dubey, a cartoonist on Facebook, says, “I never fail to upload cartoons on all the recent happenings. Fb is also a powerful media and every citizen who feels for a cause can stand up for it.”