November 20, 2012
Communalism Combat and SAHMAT condemn the illegal and arbitrary arrests of two young women in Palghar, Maharashtra for their Facebook message disapproving the coercive shutdown of the city of Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra following the death of the Shiv Sena Chief Shri Bal Thackeray. The Thane rural police have behaved arbitrarily and against the law for which the policemen involved must be prosecuted. Shiv Sena goons also vandalized a clinic being run by an uncle of one of the girls. It is condemnable that under the Congress-NCP Government it was not the vandals who destroyed medical equipment and threatened the patients at Palghar who were promptly acted against but two young girls who have every right to express their opinion. Today’s media reports state that nine persons have been arrested for the attack on the Medical Clinic but no details have been made available, including the names of the criminals.
The illegal arrest of two young girls in Palghar is one more instance of the growing politics of intimidation threat and violence that are not firmly dealt with by the authorities. Even today the reaction of the Maharashtra police does not inspire confidence and is the most recent in a long list of actions undertaken by the police under the IT Act which are questionable. It is clear from media reports that there is nothing remotely offensive or anything pertaining to religious sentiments in the message posted by one of the women. This is a clear case of misuse of the IT Act, once again underlining the need for a thorough review of some of its provisions that are open to gross misuse. We demand the immediate withdrawal of the false cases against the young women, arrest of those responsible for attacking the clinic and action against the police officials responsible for the arrests.
We would also like to record that on Wednesday, November 14 2012, an OB Van of Television Today was vandalised when it was shooting visuals of Shiv Sainiks removing decorative Diwali lanterns outside Bal Thackeray’s residence. The media accorded minimal coverage to this incident of vandalism and the FIR registered by the media organisation against miscreants who are “unknown persons.” This combined strategy of both the organisers of mobs and the police in deliberately failing to identify offenders is the time-tested technique of ensuring that no criminal prosecutions are launched nor the guilty punished. This was an attack on press freedom.
Teesta Setalvad, Ram Rahman, Javed Anand, Cyrus Guzder, MK Raina, Rajendra Prasad, Madhu Prasad, CP Chandrasekhar, Madangopal Singh, Vivan Sundaram, Dr. P.K. Shukla, Sohail Hashmi.