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Arrests over Facebook post: Freedom of expression in great peril
The arrest of two girls over posting and liking a comment on Facebook that questioned Mumbai shutdown after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's death, shows how intolerant some of our politicians, who owe their position to democracy, but do not want the netizens to enjoy their right to free speech the very democracy has given them, are.

IF SUCH people are allowed to have free run, the time is not far when the civil liberty will be in peril in our democratic country. The arrests, supposedly for creating "disharmony" for simply commenting on the three-day bandh -sponsored by the Shiva Sainiks in the memory of their revered leader Bal Thackeray - defies logic. 

How can such an innocuous comment lead to public disharmony? If just a criticism of somebody's actions amounts to creating disharmony, there can’t be any democracy. Shaheen Dadha and Renu Srinivasan, both aged 21, from Palghar were arrested on Monday after Dadha posted a Facebook status questioning the Mumbai shutdown after Thackeray's death and Renu 'liked' it.

The founder of Shiv Sena and his party are known for making disparaging remarks against others verbally and through writings. Their fulminations were targeted against everybody who didn’t subscribe to their views. Sometimes if they singled out minorities like Biharis and Muslims and at other occasions they would make cricket and films target of abuse and vandalism.

Recently, Thackeray's anti-Bihari comments and writings created fear and terror in the hearts of thousands of Biharis residing in the Mumbai but he was not arrested, not anybody remotely suggested that he should be put behind bars. Where was our 'Scotland Yard' (Mumbai Police) or Maharashtra Police then? In fact he was never arrested in his lifetime though he has always been instigating violence against some section of the society or the other. Why this alacrity on the Facebook comment now?

The main reason behind the swift action of Maharashtra Police officers, who have been found responsible for many a violent incidents, in and outside Mumbai, against the girls was that this time not a politician, but aam aadmi dared to say something against our ‘respected’ politician. So, this time punishment is mandatory. And girls, according to lawyer, were being punished for creating ‘enmity and hatred’ and using online speech is grossly offensive and of menacing character and insulting religious feelings or beliefs’. 

This shows that the political power is more powerful than our law. In this context, the arrest of Assem Trivedi, a cartoonist, is a case in point. Trivedi had drawn cartoons on corruption in our political fraternity. He too had posted his political cartoon on the Internet. To draw our revered leader's attention towards the definition of cartoonist, according to a dictionary, is a person who uses an established and iconic image, which his audience can understand and relate to and then add his personal opinion to it. A cartoon is supposed to be exaggerated. Charging an artist for sedation, which means leading and instigating the community towards violence is beyond reason.

Now, the question that arises here is: why each and every time the democratic rights are being snatched from the hands of aam aadmi? Why democratic rights each time are being turned against the people by the government? 

Even, one of the greatest critics has said: "Art is the reflection of society'. So does the artist Trivedi through his cartoons, what's so offensive in it. Each and every time the ball is in government's court but what about those hands, who had chosen them to govern? The government has each and every right to take action when the fingers are being raised against them. This is not the end of the tale to present one more shocking incident of worst of its kind is the arrest of a Kolkata professor after he did nothing more than forwarding an email with a political cartoon that poked fun of the west Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Although our political leaders were condemning these incidents, but the question arises here: is this the only way out, or will this continue to happen in a nation where you are free to express? And what about the politicians, who routinely get away with vandalism and violence of the worst kind? 

Such institutionalised double standards must be put to an end. If we want to stop this violence, we must question these double standards. One way of doing this is to amend the current law, which does not have sufficient safeguards for privacy and freedom of speech, and the law being used as a tool of harassment. If politicians and political leaders can be praised for being forthright, surely ordinary people have the right too. In a democracy of 2.5 billion people and multiple religions, you will find bewildering spectrum of opinions. So, please somebody teach our political leaders how to laugh at themselves.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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