Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Facebook girls Shaheen and Renu - Forgive them, You've Done No Wrong

The case of the two facebook girls Shaheen and Renu is one among the many such 'cyber crimes' that our politicians and police are unravelling every other day and punishing under sections of the IPC that are getting more and more complex to understand. In the recent past we've seen cartoonists being jailed, email jokes being treated as some serious anti-national business and other such stuff. Why should a comment on an event, a fairly harmless viewpoint which is perhaps voiced by many, be targeted and the girls be arrested against all logic, all rules, and harassed by the law and order system is something I cannot understand. Either the system has no understanding of this social media business or it is perhaps just too happy to punish the soft targets and let the goons go.

For those who are not familiar with this case I will I quote an excerpt from the Hindu's report on the event which pretty much explains it all: (
“With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on,” read the message posted by 21-year old Shaheen Dhada and ‘liked’ by 20-year old Renu Srinivasan from Palghar in the neighbouring Thane district, her lawyer Sudheer Gupta told The Hindu. The post continued: “Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.”

There is a huge gap in our system. On one hand there are young girls like Shaheen and Renu who are part of the youth, the educated and uneducated, the expressive, the literate and illiterate youth, which is just about finding its voice on the social media and other tools of mass expression. It is wonderful for a democracy like ours and should be encouraged because we need all viewpoints and not just those of people who shout the loudest. On the other hand we have a system which is on the other end of the technology spectrum and further shrinking away from reality, a system which still believes that one can by sheer power, by picking soft targets, by using false interpretations, sides with a misguided and temperamental people and commits a crime. This ever widening gap is one that the IT boom has brought in - technology that the old cannot use nor fathom the power of, technology that the new generation cannot do without. It is only a matter of time before India's sizeable youth chunk devours the old through these very tools of social media, technology, transperancy and free expression. But until then we will have to put up with these laughable attempts by the system to muzzle free and fair expression by force. For all those who are involved and who are supporting this, go pick on someone your own size. Don't bully the small and helpless, the soft and the sensitive. If you are strong, go and protect the weak, the helpless. That is the real show of strength.

For me this is also a case in point for the youth of India to wake up to.This is after all about your expression. Technology, social media offer you the power to express which you must. But as with any real power and freedom, there is much responsibility that comes with it, so exercise as much restraint as you can - without hiding the truth. Without the fear of saying it as it is. In fact that is what Balasaheb Thackeray did all his life. He said things as they were, as he saw them which made him so popular.

As for Shaheen and Renu, from what I have read in the papers there is nothing wrong in what they have done or said. They did just that. It is an individual's viewpoint and a genuine one at that. But to make that an arrestable crime is shameful. To see that no political party, no leader has commented on it is even more shameful. Perhaps everyone is trying to figure out what this social media is and what it does. But for me, Shaheen (and Renu) you have done no wrong and you need not step back nor apologise (something which you have already done as per the news, and in doing so, shown greater maturity than those who have wronged you). You have done what the little boy did in the Emperor's New Clothes while the entire lot of adults and advisors, ministers and wise men sat in the court, and it requires courage and clarity to say that. I am glad that the new generation has both - courage and clarity. It augurs well for India in the future.

Hold your heads high girls, you are icons. The Facebook girls. For that matter, I do hope Facebook celebrates this event and its fallout and honours the two youngsters. From me, a big 'like' for you two.

1 comment:

Madhav said...

If I write how I really feel about this, I may be arrested too. So I'll just shut up....