Target: Mumbai Police Commissioner Dr. Satyapal Singh
Goal: Drop the charges being leveled against two women for a Facebook status update
Founder of the Shiva Sena political party in India, Bal Thackeray, recently died. His death prompted members of the party to call for a general strike in order to mourn his passing. However, college student Shaheen Dhada is among some who were critical of the leader, saying he was the cause of much political and anti-Muslim violence since 1992.
In reaction to the call for a strike, Shaheen Dhada posted the following update on her Facebook page, “With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. 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.”
The status was “liked” by another young woman, Renu Srinivasan. Police called Dhada’s family, reporting “objectionable comments,” and asking that they be withdrawn. She complied by deleting the status and writing and apology. In spite of this, both she and Srinivasan were arrested the following morning.
The two were arrested for “creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes,” for “insults or outrageous religious feelings,” and for “grossly offensive or menacing” online speech. Each violation is punishable by three years in prison. In addition to this, the hospital run by Dhada’s uncle was ransacked by an angry mob.
As many have pointed out, the arrest of these two women is a violation of India’s freedom of speech. It is clear that acts such as those carried out by the angry mob are those which are actually deserving of police attention and action. Demand that the charges be wiped from their records and that the ransacking of the family’s hospital be compensated for.
Dear Dr. Satyapal Singh,
Your police department recently acted with the swift arrest of two young women who had committed no actual crime. Shaheen Dhada’s arrest alone is enough cause for extreme scrutiny of your department, given that she merely voiced her opinion on the nature of due respect. However, the arrest of Renu Srinivasan who merely “liked” the status is completely ludicrous and without justification.
You cite the instigation of enmity as reasons for why their actions should be punishable, yet it is only Dhada’s family that has been negatively affected by her opinion. With angry mobs ransacking the hospital run by her uncle, it’s clear that police attention is severely misdirected and in need of better focus.
Those who actually committed violent actions against a peaceful citizen are the ones who deserve legal retribution. Protection as well as compensation should be afforded to those young women arrested. At the very least, the charges against them should be dropped and wiped from their records. See to it that justice is appropriately served.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Humayunn N A Peerzaada via Flickr