Following the death of Bal Thackeray, leader and founder of the Shiv Sena political party, 21-year-old Shaheen Dhadha was arrested for a Facebook comment that didn’t please many Indian citizens.
“People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that,” Dhadha wrote on her Facebook wall.
NDTV reports that the Facebook post also said, “Respect is earned, not given and definitely not forced. Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear and not due to respect.”
A bandh is a city wide shutdown, and in the wake of Thackeray’s death, Mumbai came to a near standstill. But Dhadha’s Facebook status got the city reawakened.
Dhadha’s Facebook friend Renu (her last name has yet to be released) Liked the comment and was arrested alongside Dhadha.
The two women were arrested under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, the New York Times reports, for “statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes.” The local Shiv Sena chief filed the complaint for “hurting Shiv Sena’s sentiments.”
The maximum sentence in India under this law is three years in jail, NDTV reports.
Though Dhadha withdrew her comment and apologized, 2,000 Shiv Sena workers allegedly vandalized Dhadha’s uncle’s orthopedic clinic, The Times of India reports.
Several dissenters also took to Twitter to speak out about the arrest, including Milind Deora, the government minister of state, communications and information technology, who showed support for Dhadha and Renu.
The former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju defended the two women in an open letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra, saying, “Under Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution, freedom of speech is a guaranteed fundamental right. We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. In fact this arrest itself appears to be a criminal act since under sections 341 and 342 it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime.”
Both girls have since been released from jail on bail.
The incident comes just one month after Ravi Srinivasan, a businessman, was arrested for tweeting to 16 followers that Karti Chidambaram, a politician from India’s Congress party, had “amassed more wealth than Vadra” (Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law).
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Image courtesy of Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images.