At the receiving end of scathing criticism over the arrest of two Palghar based women over an innocuous Facebook post, the police have finally admitted to having arrested them under pressure from Shiv Sainiks. An officer confessed yesterday that the arrests were prompted by his urgency ‘to calm down the mob,’ rather than his conviction that the girls had committed a crime.
“There was a mob of about 4,000-5,000 at the doorstep of Palghar police station. If we hadn’t arrested them, half of my jurisdiction, including my police station, would have been on fire,” said Senior Police Inspector Srikant Pingle, who made the arrests on Sunday.
On Sunday, Shaheen Dhada posted a comment on Facebook questioning the shutdown in the city in the wake of Bal Thackeray’s death, while her friend Rini Srinivasan liked the post on Shaheen’s wall. Following this, a mob of Shiv Sainiks led by Bhushan Sankhe, city president of Shiv Sena, marched to the Palghar police station, seeking action against the two girls. Meanwhile, another group, also suspected to be Sainiks, attacked Shaheen’s uncle Dr Abdul Dhada’s clinic, thinking that it belonged to her father.
Explaining his helplessness on the day of incident, Pingle said, “I was not at the police station when the entire incident unfolded. My subordinate told me that the mob kept growing in number from 7 pm, when the incident was reported to the police station. Towards the end there was a crowd of around 5,000 people, including 1,000 female workers outside the police station. The girl who was brought to the police station refused to give in to the mob’s demand for a written apology.”
Cops said that after a confrontation and talks spanning over two hours, the girls finally caved and wrote an apology at the police station. “But by that time the damage was already done. There was news that a mob had attacked a clinic that belonged to her uncle. In order to control the situation before it spiralled out of control, I was left with no choice but to book the two, just to calm down the mob,” Pingle added.
Following the public outrage over the arrests, the police arrested nine suspects from the area who allegedly vandalised the clinic. However, they protected the Sainiks, claiming that the vandals comprised a mixed crowd of locals, and not specifically Sainiks. They also insisted that the vandals are locals who had a personal vendetta against the doctor and the hospital, as they felt it overcharged patients.
“The hospital was vandalised when most of the Sainiks, including Sankhe and other local leaders, were present at the police station,” said Pingle, when asked why Sankhe, who had allegedly led the mob, is still roaming scot-free.
All the accused have been booked under Sections 141 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), 451 (house-trespass) and 427 (mischief causing damage) of the IPC, sections of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and the Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage of Property) Act. All the arrested were produced before Palghar local court and released on bail.
Ahmed Javed, Additional Director General of police (law and order) said, “DGP Sanjeev Dayal has initiated a high level inquiry into the matter. IGP Sukhvinder Singh is also investing the matter. They will submit a report in three to four days. We will take action against anyone who is found guilty.”
Former bureaucrat Abha Singh registered a complaint against police officials yesterday with the Maharashtra State Commission for Women. The complaint pointed out that the hasty arrests amounted to a serious violation of the rights of the women. The government should be asked to take departmental action against delinquent police personnel, the complaint demanded. It also added that compensations should be awarded to the arrested girls.
“Under the provisions of Section 46 (4) the Code of Criminal Procedure, a female can be arrested only after sunrise. Police have also violated the guidelines of the Supreme Court,” said Singh.
Another FB user threatened
Ghatkopar resident Karan Vaswani (34) has also been receiving threats from an unknown caller for posting a comment on Facebook. Vaswani registered a formal complaint by calling the police helpline number 100. Attached with a law firm, Vaswani had posted a comment about Thackeray’s funeral at Shivaji Park on Sunday. On Tuesday around 1.50 pm, he received a call from a PCO in Mahim. The caller abused and threatened him over the comment. He called three more times but Vaswani did not answer. “He threatened that he would gather 500 people and thrash me. He abused me in filthy language. I have deleted the comment from Facebook,” said Vaswani.