Facebook status - I love Thackeray, don’t you?
Want to know the easiest way to land in jail? Murder? No, you can get away with it without the police doubting you. Look, they are still wondering who killed Aarushi Talwar.
Amassing black money? Naah! Poor Kejriwal and company cried themselves hoarse but the rich have wings!
Drawing ‘offensive’ cartoons? Yes, that’s a good option but not everyone has a way with lines and not everyone is as talented and lucky as Aseem Trivedi!
Vandalizing? Yes. In fact, it`s in fashion guys! But why to take so much trouble and gather hundreds and invest your muscular energy when just a click can do the wonders.
The right answer is - Facebook! Did you guess it? Just one ‘offensive’ post update and voila – you find yourself in jail! Even easier is - ‘liking’ any such post – just one click of the mouse will ensure that you spend time with the cops.
Thanks to Shaheen Dadha and her candid questioning of the idea of a bandh in wake of Thackeray’s demise on the social networking site Facebook, that the story of the Tiger took a 180 degree turn and the saga of the magnanimous ‘champion of Marathi manoos’ gave way to the hitherto subdued rants against him.
When Bal Thackeray breathed his last on Saturday afternoon, tributes and obituaries laced with flowery adjectives poured in from all quarters, making many wonder if the nation had suffered such a great irreplaceable loss! I began to question my ideas and opinions that were not as good and decent as those being published and flashed widely.
Or maybe the writers were restrained by a very obvious ethical etiquette that says that it’s not right to talk ill of a man who has just passed on to the other world.
But then appeared a very guileless Facebook post by an innocent free soul and Shaheen was arrested along with her friend Renu – the girl who was held for just liking the post.
Thier detention was probably the trigger that acted as the spark to ignite the frozen anti-Thackeray sentiments harboured in many minds, and out came all those hidden feelings. For example, one of the tweets said, “GOOD RIDDANCE THACKERAY. India’s now a better place”.
“Thackeray bored us senseless with stories about his trip to America, the highlight of which was a visit to Disneyland”, tweeted Patrick French, author of INDIA: A PORTRAIT.
Justice Markandey Katju, the Chairman of Press Council of India, wrote an Op-Ed in a newspaper titled – ‘Why I can’t pay tribute to Thackeray’.
The arrests of the two young girls served as a catalyst which made it easy for people to get unchained from the unsaid fear and restriction - especially for those living in Mumbai - and bring out in the open what they really felt. But the ridiculous fact about the girls being booked is that they highlight how easy it is to twist any section of Indian Penal Code and use it to suit the interests of a particular power-packed group.
Shaheen and Renu were arrested under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, that is, for “outraging religious feelings of any class”. I wonder with all due respect if Bal Thackeray was God for Shiv Sainiks, and aggression was their religion; then can I and millions of fans, of say, Roger Federer would get the right to indulge in violence if somebody wrote anything against our Tennis God and hurt our “religious” feelings (the religion being Tennis)?
Even on Section 66A of the IT Act - “sending offensive messages through communication service, etc”, does Shaheen’s candid comment on Facebook pass the test of being offensive enough?
Now, let me take you on a sensational literary trip, flavoured by abrasive and explosive statements spoken by the Tiger himself:
In one of his anti-Bihari rants in Samna, he explained why Biharis formed the disliked lot. He said, "Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari. Do Bihari Ladai ki taiyari, Teen Bihari train hamari and paanch Bihari to sarkar hamaari" -that translates to - One Bihari equals hundred diseases, Two Biharis means they are preparing for fight, Three Biharis translates to train hijack, and five Biharis means that they would form a government.
He dubbed people of a particular religious group as "fanatics and sinners" who were "spreading like a cancer and should be operated on like a cancer".
For him Sonia Gandhi was just a "white skin" not welcome in India.
Even the media wasn’t spared and he called them “pimps and agents”.
After all these, read Shaheen`s post – “People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that”.
Now it is for you to decide, whose freedom of expression was more debauched.
The worst part about the girls’ arrests is that it fuels fear, as the girls have now admitted: they are very scared and would never visit Facebook again.
By this incident, many young minds that could have unleashed a new wave of inspiration and revolution have been chained even before they could bloom to grow into a full-fledged liberated soul.
After having celebrated 66 Independence Days, we as Indians need to question ourselves - Are we a free nation?
Are we free to talk our hearts out or do we have to say – I love Thackeray!
And it is not just about Bal Thackeray or Shiv Sena, zealots are everywhere and in every religion. Can we forget the chopping of the hand of a professor in Kerala by Muslim fundamentalist for a setting a question in a college exam which they conjured as against Islam.
Are we still ruled by the ferociousness of a few drunk with power or by our own internal fears?
I don’t know the answer but next time anything similar happens, I think my Facebook status would be – I love Thackeray, don’t you!!!