Palghar: Two young women, faces covered with bright dupattas and fear palpable, say they regret posting on Facebook about the shutdown of Mumbai on Sunday during Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's funeral.
The 21-year-old posted, "Respect is earned, not given and definitely not forced. Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear and not due to respect." She says, in a low voice, a blue and green dupatta pulled tight across her face, that, "I would like to apologise. He (Bal Thackeray) was a great man."
Her friend, who had "liked" her post, too says she regrets doing that. Both women have had a harrowing two days since they posted on Facebook. They were arrested on the complaint of a local Shiv Sena leader Bhushan Sankhe, were charged under various sections of the law that could entail up to three years in jail. They were ordered by a court to serve 14 days in jail and, hours later, were allowed out on bail after paying two bonds of Rs. 15,000 each.
Soon after, about 30 or 40 men, allegedly Shiv Sena activists, ransacked an orthopaedic clinic that belongs to the uncle of the young woman. They broke window panes, damaged equipment and ripped out beds and wash basins; there were two in-house patients at the clinic at the time. The uncle says he has no fear, but he has suffered a major loss, and no one will pay for the damage.
Asked if she is afraid, there is a moment's hesitation, before the young woman who posted on Facebook tellingly says, "no comment."
The women say they were treated well by the police after the arrest, but do think that the arrest was unfair. They say this not in a deluge of angry words, but in monosyllables, clearly weighing everything they say against what they have been through in the last two days.
Nine men have been arrested this morning for vandalising the uncle's clinic and the Maharashtra Police has ordered an inquiry, to be led by a senior cop, into the arrest of the young women. (Read) Sources say there is consternation in the police headquarters in Mumbai over the action of the Palghar police. "We have ordered an inquiry... if any further action needs to be taken the probe team will decide and send a report. On this report we will act," Deven Bharti, IG (Law and Order), Maharashtra Police said.
The Shiv Sena leader's death on Saturday afternoon had brought Mumbai to a virtual standstill on Sunday, with shops and other establishments shutting and taxis going off the roads, amid fears of violence by Mr Thackeray's supporters. There was, however, no untoward incident in Mumbai over the weekend.