These are times when democracy is being redefined by repeated State assaults and unfailing surges of retaliation by its people on a medium that is in constant flux. Six students from Jenneys Academy of Hotel Management discuss the arrest of the ‘Facebook women’ in Mumbai and its fundamental democratic violation

With the undemocratic arrest of two young women, the world has seen, yet again, the kind of nation state George Orwell describes in 1984. The response has predictably been a mix of anger and fear. But the underlying question is whether fear is gaining ground while anger invariably falls behind.

The superficial signs point towards the triumph of anger, amplified as national outrage on 24-hour news and the internet. Having elbowed all other issues out of prime time debates and after spamming everybody’s social networking account with a variety of indignant and/or tongue-in-cheek reactions, this assault on the freedom of expression looked like it had built a strong case for itself. As usual.

However, a week later when the gatekeepers of news decide (justifiably) that it is time to move on to the next big sensation (Kasab’s hanging in this case), the people’s anger finds an irresistible new muse, if you will. And the residual fear catches up in the form of tailored opinions and paranoia too spaced out to register panic.

“May be the girls shouldn’t have taken democracy so seriously,” says K. Arjun, while R. Manimegali feels Indian politics is too insecure compared to the West, where “politicians and their supporters take negative opinions in their stride.”

The ensuing discussion tries to rationalise the various reactions drawn out by a simple Facebook status; the comment incidents like these make on our democracy; and the consequences the two momentary heroes of social networking might face when there arrives a new hero to hail.

Sound bytes

A. Mohamed Peeran, III Year, Hotel Management: I don’t think Indian politicians or their supporters have the nerve to take an honest opinion and that makes them misfits in a world that is devoting so much time to opinionate about everything. Using the state’s power to quell the right to opinion is probably their only chance at reprisal and it can be scary to get caught in the middle.

R. Manimegalai, I Year, Hotel Management: If a comment that was in no way defamatory can provoke such intense reactions from the state machinery, it is probably only a reflex action caused by earlier trysts with ‘enraged’ Shiv Sainiks. I’m not sure if the same status posted elsewhere would have prompted something as strong as an arrest. The attack on her uncle’s clinic has only re-affirmed the fear psychosis that Shaheen Dhada tried to describe.

K. Marudhupandi, III Year, Hotel Management: With our increasing engagement with news, has reduced our collective attention span on a particular issue to the bare minimum. While the two women may have found supporters across the world, they are only temporary. In time, the two women might have to face the actual brunt of such attention in their day to day lives, where the society might fear fresh attacks if seen interacting with the two.

M. Vinothkumar, I Year, Hotel Management: With the Sena having no clear leadership to fill in the larger-than-life mould of Bal Thackeray, the insecurity of the party cadre is not unexpected. His natural death probably robbing them of a chance to be violent, the two girls have unwittingly provided the Sainiks with the perfect excuse to display their might. The police reaction will have only fanned their egos further.

K. Arjun, III Year, Hotel Management: The arrest of the two girls, the arrest of a Puducherry business man (for posting about Karthi Chidambaram on Twitter) and other such recent incidents will definitely come to my mind if and when one of Tamil Nadu’s foremost politicians die. While I might have something to say about it, I might not have the courage anymore to actually put it up under my name on the internet.

J. Nivas, II Year, Hotel Management: I wonder if the status would have evoked the same set of police reactions had it been posted by a politician or social bigwig. It would have been on the news, but for entirely different reasons. So does that mean the rich and the powerful can expect the same state to insulate them (from attacks) for expressing their opinion? Are the rest of us second degree citizens?

Established in 1996, Jenneys Academy of Hotel Management offers range of programs like the B.Sc. in Catering and Hotel Management; and the dual degree in Catering and Hotel Administration (for students who have cleared their plus two exams). Apart from these, they also offer certificate courses in Food Production, Bakery and Confectionery, Food and Beverage Service, Front Office and Housekeeping for students who have cleared class ten exams. Trained in the various technical and soft skills required by the hospitality industry, the students undergo campus interviews by leading hotel groups, airlines, cruise lines and other service oriented industries.