HindustanTimes Thu,30 Oct 2014

Facebook comment row: Palghar girls become online heroes

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, November 23, 2012
First Published: 00:55 IST(23/11/2012) | Last Updated: 10:33 IST(23/11/2012)

There has been tremendous online support for Shaheen Dhada, 21, and her friend Rinu Srinivasan, 21 — the two girls from Palghar who were arrested for a comment on Facebook that questioned the shutdown of the city for Bal Thackeray’s funeral.

Several communities condemning the arrests have come up. In fact, several netizens have boldly posted the same message that Dhada had put up on her Facebook profile, and Srinivasan had liked, which led to their arrest.

Ever since the news of their arrests broke, several people on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter criticised the arrest questioning the freedom of expression. In order to defy authorities, the same message that Shaheen updated was shared verbatim by several people in a show of solidarity — daring the police to arrest them as well for sharing the message.

In addition to this, several pages sprung up in support of Shaheen. While certain pages were asking Shaheen to become a member of Facebook again, another Facebook page compared her to Malala Yousafzai – a Pakistani girl who was shot in her neck for blogging about her life under the Taliban rule — calling her India’s Malala.

An introduction of a page dedicated in support of Shaheen reads, ‘Meet India's Malala Yousafzai. In her simplicity, she asked why Mumbai should be shut down if Bal Thackeray died? She was arrested for that simple question.’

Several posts questioned the application of the law under which the girls were booked considering that the Indian Constitution grants everyone the freedom to speech. Many of them raised questions about how sections of the Information Technology (IT) Act were vague and could be misused.

A post on micro-blogging site Twitter expressed the need for an amendment to avoid such a situation in the future. ‘Sad: that girl was arrested for FB post on Balasaheb. We need an amendment to the IT Act,’ tweeted Nishant Karn. Another user Jotu Sethi tweeted, ‘We live in an age where a FB post or a tweet can land you in jail.’

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