Hebdo dispute does't need more scapegoats

The JJ Marg Police arrested two newspaper vendors for selling copies of the Urdu daily, Avadhnama, which printed a controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed from the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, a front page report in this paper stated.

Legal experts and even newspaper vendors have been alarmed and disappointed by this action. While the police may be going by the letter of the law, newspaper vendors are simply doing their job by selling newspapers and magazines. They are not privy to the content in newspapers. The complainant, though, has stated that the vendor knew and understood Urdu and therefore, should have known about the cartoon and should not have distributed the newspaper.

The police, however, must use discretion in such cases. This is a clear case of over reach and perhaps, they have succumbed to pressure from complainants.

Some have alleged that the vendor has sold the newspaper knowingly, despite being certain that it would hurt the sentiments of the community. Another quote says that a case was filed against the vendor to control the situation. An official has admitted that they were initially hesitant to take action against the vendor, but filed the FIR because of pressure in the case.

Whatever may be the case, this sets a dangerous and disturbing precedent for vendors who may now be blamed for what is on their stands. Every vendor cannot be expected to whet and scan content in publications before putting it on the stands or distributing it.

This surely is a strange way to handle a delicate situation. One has to say that this is being done to assuage anger and outrage rather than ‘punish’ the vendors, strictly speaking. The vendor has become a convenient and soft target for the authorities. One hopes that the vendors’ association comes together and unites in support of their colleagues.

Today, they certainly need it.

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