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‘Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not respect’

Mumbai Bureau
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This Facebook post opposingthe bandh for Thackeray got two women arrested

Two young women were arrested here on Monday on charges of “promoting enmity between classes” and “sending offensive messages through [a] communication service,” after one posted, and the other ‘liked,’ a message on Facebook on Sunday, questioning the Mumbai bandh that followed Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death. Both of them were released on bail by a local court on Monday afternoon.

“With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on,” read the message posted by 21-year old Shaheen Dhada and ‘liked’ by 20-year old Renu Srinivasan from Palghar in the neighbouring Thane district, her lawyer Sudheer Gupta told The Hindu . The post continued: “Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.”

Following public outcry over what has been widely condemned as an attack on the constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech and expression — among others, Press Council of India chairperson Markandey Katju said the arrests were illegal and demanded action against the police — Maharashtra Director-General of Police Sanjeev Dayal ordered a probe into their arrest.

The women were earlier booked for hurting religious sentiments under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, along with Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. On investigation, the police altered the charges, withdrawing Section 295(A). They were formally arrested on Monday morning and later released on bail by a local court on a bond of Rs.15,000.

“On investigation, we withdrew Section 295(A) and booked them under Section 505(2) [of the Indian Penal Code],” Sangramsinh Nishandar, Additional Superintendent of Police, Thane Rural, told The Hindu . Section 505(2) pertains to statements which create or promote enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.

On Sunday night, mobs of angry Shiv Sainiks ransacked an orthopaedic hospital run by Ms. Dhada’s uncle at Palghar after they came to know of her comment on Facebook. Dr. Abdul Dhada has registered a First Information Report (FIR) in Palghar police station.

“There was some misunderstanding. Something was quoted by my younger brother’s daughter on Facebook. The Shiv Sainiks were unhappy about it. So yesterday [Sunday] night, they ransacked my hospital. But I would not like to talk about it any further as the matter is being resolved now,” Dr. Abdul Dhada told The Hindu from Palghar.

A request to speak with Ms. Dhada, who is a Bachelor of Management Studies, was refused. “She is traumatised. She is not in a frame of mind. It is not possible to talk to her right now,” he said.

But Shaheen’s Facebook page reflected her agony and anger, as her recently-changed profile picture showed a girl’s face whose voice has been muzzled by a tape sealing her mouth.

Her uncle said she had merely reposted the message someone had forwarded to her on Sunday. After she posted it, her friend Renu, a B.Sc (Botany) graduate, ‘liked’ it.

“She had not mentioned Balasaheb Thackeray’s name anywhere. But some Shiv Sena supporters who came to know about the post got angry and ransacked the hospital of Dr. Abdul Dhada,” Mr. Nishandar said.

The head of the Palghar unit of the Shiv Sena, Bhushan Anant Sankhe, filed an FIR against the two women at the Palghar station, even as a mob of Shiv Sainiks gathered there. Another mob of 80-100 Shiv Sainiks surrounded Dr. Dhada’s hospital and pelted it with stones. Police said the mobs broke glass and toppled beds in the hospital.

A case has been registered against 40-50 “unknown persons” under Sections 143, 147, 336, 427, 451 of the Indian Penal Code; Sections 3, 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and Section 4 of the Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institution (Prevention of Violence, Damage or Loss of Property) Act.

(Continued on Page 10)

THIS FACEBOOK POST OPPOSING

THE BANDH FOR THACKERAY

GOT TWO WOMEN ARRESTED

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