Indian Women Arrested For Facebook Like Status, Jailed

An Indian woman and her friend were arrested for expressing their thoughts through a Facebook Like in Mumbai, India, after she complained about a traffic shutdown.

Shaheen Dhada, who lives in the town of Palghar, took to her Facebook page to criticize a traffic shutdown in Mumbai for a right-wing Hindu nationalist Bal Thackeray, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 86. Dhada questioned whether the shutdown for the funeral was really necessary.

The controversial leader has been hailed by Hindu nationalists but also criticized by liberals for leaving behind a legacy of political violence in India’s financial capital. The party has been accused of anti-Muslim violence in Mumbai in 1992, and Mr. Thackeray frequently made statements against Muslims.

Thackeray was criticized for his praise of Adolf Hitler. He was quoted by Asiaweek as saying: “I am a great admirer of Hitler, and I am not ashamed to say so! I do not say that I agree with all the methods he employed, but he was a wonderful organizer and orator, and I feel that he and I have several things in common…What India really needs is a dictator who will rule benevolently, but with an iron hand.”

Dhada, 21, wrote on Facebook, “Respect is earned, not given and definitely not forced. Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear and not due to respect.”

Dhada later deleted the comment and issued an apology, but her and a woman friend who “liked” the comment were arrested by Palghar police. The comment also lead to several Thackeray supporters ransacking Dhada’s uncles orthopedic clinic in Palghar.

Police say they arrested the two women to avoid further rioting over the comments.

But the arrests of the two women also angered others such as Markandey Katju, a former Supreme Court justice who now heads the Press Council of India. In a protest letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra, Katju called for the prosecution of the police officers, who made the arrests.

Katju writes, “We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship.”

The two women were released on bail on Monday, a day after the funeral.

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