Indian police have arrested a woman after she posted a Facebook message criticizing the total shutdown of Mumbai following the death of right-wing politician Bal Thackeray.
When hundreds of thousands of Thackeray supporters turned out for a funeral procession over the weekend, Mumbai was left at a standstill, with traffic in lockdown and the whole city paralyzed.
Businesses closed and taxis did not operate as violence was feared from Thackeray’s supporters.
"Her comment said people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a 'bandh' (city shutdown) for that," Uttam Sonawane, a police inspector, told the Mumbai Mirror. The woman, as yet unidentified, was arrested Sunday along with her friend who “liked” the posting on Facebook. Police intend to hold the women, both 21 years old, for 14 days.
Predictably, the arrest caused a flurry of outrage online. It also stirred supporters of Thackeray’s political party, the Shiv Sena, to vandalize a clinic belonging to the woman who initially posted the message.
While countless Indian nationals mourned Thackeray’s death, others lamented his legacy and his party’s hold on Indian financial markets.
Thackeray was an Indian cartoonist who turned his attention to politics in the mid-1960s. He was founder and chief of Shiv Sena, a contentious political party often accused of stoking religious and ethnic intolerance. His funeral was granted state-level support and more than 2 million mourners are said to have attended.
Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju termed the arrests of the women absurd and called for action against the police involved.
"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.
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