Youth get cautious after Palghar facebook arrest

Three days after Bal Thackeray died he could even convince god to get Kasab hung, a joke goes. A coaching class professor posted this as his status message on Facebook on Wednesday. A large chunk of comments on that post were from students telling him to be careful, to go underground or to remove it.

The fear psychosis gripping the student community after the arrest of two girls for their veiled comments on the Thackeray-related bandh in Mumbai has stifled online interactions, prompting students to think twice and post less. Outrage and caution have come in equal measure.

“People are commenting light-heartedly, but it has been a topic of discussion,” said Shrey Singh, 21, an third year student at IIT-Bombay, who saw this on his newsfeed.

On Sunday night Palghar police arrested two students – one who in a status update commented on the bandh in the city and questioned the logic for it, and another who had liked the post. Social networking sites were filled with outrage and horror at the arbitrary clampdown and the attack on the hospital of the girl’s uncle.

“They made an issue out of such a silly thing,” said Neha Iyer, 18, a first year BCom student at Mithibai College in Vile Parle. “People are scared to say things now. We are actively thinking twice about what we say or write.”

She said she herself was planning to post a Thackeray-related update but then decided not to out of fear.

Others said they had backtracked after liking or commenting on a potentially controversial post. Aamir Sakarwala, 19, unliked a friend’s anti-Thackeray post that he had earlier liked. “It is better to be safe, than sorry,” said the second year BCom student. Another friend of his wrote “no comment” on a status update instead of liking or expressing an opinion on it.

Students’ accounts and newsfeed were full of reactions and enraged comments, some even re-posting the contentious comment out of solidarity. Others have been asked to be careful.


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