Words and consequences

The TV images of the two traumatised young women from Palghar, Maharashtra, who gave written apologies for a crime they had not committed, should shame all citizens even slightly concerned about the protection of democratic values and the upholding of the rights of freedom of speech, life and liberty guaranteed by Articles 19 (1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution. An orthopaedic clinic owned by a relative was destroyed by Shiv Sainiks. So real was the terror that the doctor thought it wise to withdraw charges against those involved. The bullies of the Shiv Sena crowed that since the women had given an apology and withdrawn charges, they need not worry — "nothing will happen to you now that you have apologised," said the Shiv Sena spokeswoman. In other words, if the young women had not apologised, they would have suffered a worse fate than being illegally summoned to the thana at night, arrested, abused and threatened. While there has been anger against the incident and the arrests of the women, equally and disturbingly, it has had a cascading impact where people tend to think twice before expressing an opinion, for fear that they too will be targeted.

There was nothing remotely offensive about the Facebook post. It reads, "With all respect, every day, thousands of people die but still the world moves on. Just due to one politician dies a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. When was the last time did anyone show some respect or even a two minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people of whom we are free loving Indians? Respect is earned and definitely not forced. Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not respect [sic]." Ironically, the subsequent actions of the Shiv Sainiks only confirmed the point she made.

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