Mumbai police have arrested two women for posting to their Facebook pages what the authorities saw as insurrection. Now people across India are protesting the decision by the government and calling for the women's release.
"We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship," Markandey Katju, head of the Press Council of India, wrote in in a letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra. He also asked that the women be released and the arresting officer suspended and prosecuted.
The ordeal started when Shaheen Dhada, 21, posted a comment on her Facebook page saying that the closures of businesses due to a politician's funeral were "due to fear, not due to respect. Respect is earned and definitely not forced," she added.
Her friend, Renu Srinivasan, hit the popular "like" button on Facebook to show that she was in agreement with Dhada. Police then arrested both women on charges of "creating enmity and hatred." They were released on bail just yesterday.
Both women told the press they have deactivated their Facebook accounts for fear of another arrest, but their story has garnered the attention of civil rights workers across the world who have called for a re-examination of India's laws to prevent another incident like this.
"Freedom of speech is a very important right, and we need to protect it," India's Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters. "We want to make sure that this law is not mean to prevent people from stating their point of view on any issue."
However, there are leaders who feel the police acted responsibly. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut told NDTV.com he felt Dhada's comments "could have led to a law and order situation."
And according to the Mumbai Mirror, Dhada's uncle's orthopedic clinic was ravaged by a mob of about 2,000 Thackeray supporters who were outraged by Dhada's apparent disrespect.
India has a fast-growing Internet population, making the arrests even more critical as the government cracks down on those it deems "unruly" or capable of inciting riot or discontent.