Woman held for post on politician's death

2012-11-19 21:43
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Mumbai - Indian police said on Monday they had arrested a woman for criticising on Facebook the total shutdown of Mumbai after the death of politician Bal Thackeray, as well as a friend who "liked" the comment.

The pair, both aged 21, were arrested for "hurting religious sentiments" and bailed on Monday afternoon by a court in the town of Palghar, north of Mumbai, Police Inspector Shrikant Pingle told AFP.

"The police had sought 14 days judicial custody for the two girls," he said.

The women were arrested on Sunday, when a huge funeral procession attended by hundreds of thousands was held in Mumbai for Thackeray, the divisive founder of the rightwing Shiv Sena party.

Reports said a Shiv Sena mob, angered by the woman's Facebook post, vandalised a clinic of her uncle's. Pingle said they were probing the alleged attack by "some unknown people" but were yet to detain anyone.

"We will investigate the matter, find them and arrest them," he said.

Thackeray's death on Saturday afternoon brought Mumbai to a virtual standstill for the weekend, with businesses shutting and taxis going off the roads, amid fears of violence by Thackeray's supporters.

While his followers mourned, others were angered at the hold Shiv Sena exerted over India's financial capital. The woman arrested for her Facebook post was among many who aired opinions on social networking sites.

"Her comment said people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a 'bandh' [city shutdown] for that," Police Inspector Uttam Sonawane told the Mumbai Mirror.

The arrests, which ironically sparked outrage online, followed a police complaint lodged by a local Shiv Sena leader, according to the PTI news agency.

Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju said the accusations against the women were "absurd" and called for immediate action against the police involved in the case.

"We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship," he said in a letter - posted on his blog - to the chief minister of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

Sandeep Dikshit, spokesperson for India's ruling Congress party, described the case as "unfortunate".

Despite widespread concerns, there were no reports of unrest in Mumbai itself on the day of the funeral of Thackeray, one of India's most polarising party leaders who was widely accused of stoking ethnic and religious violence.

India in recent months has shown sensitivity to criticism of its politicians, sparking anger from freedom of expression campaigners.

In September, free speech activists were outraged by the arrest in Mumbai on charges of sedition of a cartoonist for his anti-corruption drawings. The charges were later dropped.

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