November 20, 2012

India's Festival of Lights Overcome with Shadows as Women Arrested Following Diwali


Today marks exactly one week from the kickoff of Diwali, a five-day Hindu festival, celebrated by families performing traditional activities together in their homes. But at a time when the country should be rejoicing, it looks like the flickering of lights was abruptly put out with the arrests of two women.

According to The Seattle Times, with India's financial capital closed for the weekend funeral of a politician, a woman posted on her personal Facebook page that the closures in Mumbai were because of “fear, not due to respect," which then prompted her friend to click the “like” button in agreement.

Because of these actions, both women were taken into police custody.

The Maharashtra state government is currently being accused of pursuing these citizens in blatant disregard of their right to believe and say whatever they think or feel – also known as freedom of expression in India. While the death of the political figure Bal Thackeray was something most were mourning of, police stated they made these arrests as a way to nip any violent actions in the bud before they started.

"We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship," Markandey Katju, a former Supreme Court justice who is now leading the Press Council of India, declared in a letter written to the chief minister of Maharashtra.

 Since the arrests, both women have not only withdrew their comments, but sincerely apologized for their actions. They have subsequently been released on bail.

Shaheen Dhada, the 21-year-old who inked the initial comment on the social media platform, said her arrest was “unfair.”

Clearly terrified by her arrest and the attack on her uncle's clinic, Dhada told NDTV television she would never again make comments on a social networking site. And both women are now too scared to ever utilize Facebook again.

 India's Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal added, "Freedom of speech is a very important right, and we need to protect it," Sibal told reporters. He said the government would reexamine the laws governing information technology to prevent its misuse by the police.

This particular case pays head to the much bigger issue of people throughout the world voicing their opinions or thoughts via social media and then being persecuted for those actions. Though the line blurs between how far is too far in stating what you want, shouldn’t everyone be able to voice their opinion without having to then live in fear of their actions coming back to haunt them?

Social media is not always used as a way to go after brave individuals but is continuing to be leveraged to actually arrest real criminals as well. In fact, just last month the Philadelphia Police Department revealed it had officially nabbed its 100th criminal via social media initiatives. Hoping to serve as a model for other law enforcement organizations, the organization is in strong favor of turning to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to put bad guys behind bars where they belong.




Edited by Braden Becker



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