FB post: Probe on, says minister; activists seek action against cops

Speaking at the inauguration of 10th police duty meet at Wanowrie on Tuesday, Minister of State for Home Satej Patil said the state has instituted a probe into the arrests of two girls from Palghar for their Facebook post about Bal Thackeray.

"An inquiry committee has been constituted by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan under the leadership of Inspector General (IG) of Konkan range. The report will be submitted on Saturday," Patil said. He refused to comment further till the committee gave its report.

However, activists are outraged at police action. The Maharashtra State Committee of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has expressed concern and outrage at the high-handed arrest of the two girls for expressing on Facebook their discomfort at the complete shutdown in Mumbai following the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.

AIDWA president Kiran Moghe said local Shiv Sainiks, true to the intolerance practised by their party, intimidated them into giving a forced apology and complained to the police. Shockingly, the Palghar police, instead of providing them security and taking action against those harassing them, arrested the two young women on serious charges of outraging religious feelings and posting an offensive message.

"These were later changed to an arbitrary charge of 'creating enmity' after public uproar. This is complete travesty of the Constitutional right to democratic freedom of expression available to every citizen of India."

Moghe said, "The complacency of the police emboldened the local Shiv Sainiks and their supporters to vandalise a hospital of a relative of one of the women. The police did not act against, nor arrest, those responsible for breaking law and order. These developments seriously compromise our democratic functioning and weaken the law and order in the state."

"We demand that the state government take strict action against those responsible for the arbitrary arrest and charges. The Shiv Sainiks responsible for the harassment and violence must be arrested immediately. The government must ensure protection for the young women and their families, withdraw the false cases and compensate them for the high handedness of the police," the organisation said.

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