Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Police intimidation against social activists

Haaretz Editorial Last summer's protests drew hundreds of thousands of people who filled the streets and exercised their basic right to protest social injustice. The demonstrators did not merely make do with criticizing the situation, but put forward ideas for change. Never before had a civil protest left such a deep impression on the reality of our lives. The possibility that these demonstrations may return in the coming weeks apparently seems threatening to the powers that be, which are preparing for them.

Summoning prominent activists in those protests to be questioned by police in an effort to ascertain if and how they will act in the coming weeks is an illegitimate act. The summonses given to the activists did not state the purpose of the questioning; as the police itself admits, it was not a proper investigation of suspected crimes that were committed in the past or might be committed in the future, but an effort "to better prepare for the summer months." 

This attempt to collect information about the protests is not innocent. As the activists questioned tell it, the police warned them a month ago against "stretching the boundaries" and made it clear that at whichever events might be planned, they would be the first to be arrested. It looks as if the police had hoped that "marking" the protest leaders and scaring them would put a damper on efforts to renew the protests. In a society in which one is permitted to demonstrate, at least for now, such threats are not acceptable. 


  1. Hardly a surprise. The police were nothing short of vicious when dealing with right-wing activists before the disengagement, Amona, hilltop youth etc. The only reason why Haaretz is suddenly crying foul about it now is because it's their ox being gored.

  2. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 30, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    The New York Times, Global Edition, India -- India Ink: Notes on the World's Largest Democracy:

    November 27, 2012

    "Police Who Made Facebook Arrests Suspended


    Two police officers in the state of Maharashtra who recently arrested two young women over a Facebook post were suspended from duty on Tuesday, while the state changed the way it would enforce a controversial law.

    The moves were praised as a victory by free speech advocates, who have been sharply critical of the arrests and of India’s loosely defined Internet law.

    Ravindra Sengaonkar, the police chief in the Thane district outside Mumbai, and Srikant Pingle, the officer in charge of the Palghar police station there, were suspended and a departmental inquiry initiated, the home minister of Maharashtra, R.R. Patil, announced in a news conference.

    The additional superintendent of police in the same district, Sangram Singh Nishandar, has also received a warning, Mr. Patil said.

    Last week, the police arrested Shaheen Dhada, 21, a medical student, after she posted an update on the social media site Facebook questioning the forced citywide shutdown after a far-right Hindu political leader died in Mumbai. A friend who clicked “Like” on the post, Renu Srinivasan, 20, was also arrested.

    The women were charged with engaging in speech that was offensive and hateful for a post that many experts say was neither.

    “I don’t have any enmity toward them,” Ms. Srinivasan’s father told the news channel NDTV on Tuesday, referring to the police. “If there was no support from the media or the people in general from all over the country, I would have been in trouble.”

    Much of the criticism voiced online and by legal experts has focused on the Information Technology Act of 2008. The law was overhauled after the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai to grant the government broader powers to combat cybercrime, among other things.
    On Tuesday, Mr. Patil said that henceforth in cases involving violations of the I.T. Act, a senior officer would first investigate the matter and then a lawyer would be consulted before any action was taken.

    Both women were arrested and charged under section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, which relates to statements that are likely to create enmity, hatred or ill will between classes, and Section 66A of the I.T. Act.

    They were both released on bail, but the charges have yet to be dropped."


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