Thursday, February 05, 2015

Controversy surrounding Urdu newspaper Avadhnama after publishing Charlie Hebdo cover and its editor's problems

First, the facts of the entire controversy. Mumbai-based Urdu daily Avadhnama stopped its publication after the controversial cover of French paper Charlie Hebdo was reproduced in this paper.

The editor of Avadhnama, Shirin Dalvi, is now out of job. She has several FIRs in police station in different cities in Maharashtra, for hurting the sentiments of Muslims, and is living in hiding for fear of being attacked.

Either it was mistake or foolhardiness, the newspaper had published apology for the photo. The issue should have ended there. The Avadhnama group shouldn't have shut the paper. Some Urdu editors said that she shouldn't be harassed after the apology.

Her problems, her living away from her children, has been mentioned in several news reports [See the news link HERE], people tweeted in her support, but will this help her? No. The reason is double standards in applying law in the country. Her LETTER, [read it on NDTV website], 'I, an underground citizen...' led to outrage on social media.

Why just 'outrage' won't work: Double standards in applying law in the country

1. Getting multiple FIRs registered against a person is a sure shot way to harass him/her, in a big way. The person would spend years, making rounds to the police stations and courts, dealing with lawyers.

2. In MP, an influential Hindi newspaper published the Charlie Hebdo cover. There were massive protests (and yes a law-and-order issue of bigger magnitude than the one cited in Maharashtra), but the police didn't register a single FIR. The Cops said, 'We are examining the complaints and will take action after preliminary investigation'.

3. But, in Maharashtra, FIRs against Shirin Dalvi was registered in half-a-dozen police stations in different cities. Why? It is because she is not a big shot and probably because her paper was not influential enough.

4. Though, both Maharashtra and MP are BJP ruled states, and the laws are also same. The issue was exactly the same, then why police in MP didn't register FIR despite huge gatherings. The reason is 'show me the Man (person), I will show you the rule' style of functioning.

5. It is totally in the hands of police to deal with such issues. If those at the 'top' give nod, FIR is registered, else police conveniently say, 'give us a written complaint, we will examine'. This is a way to delay the FIR and hush up the issue. Often, people are satisfied by just handing their complaint.

6. It requires political or administrative will to take a decision at that level, not going by the book. Citing law-and-order, police may register FIR or they may not. This happens in almost all crimes around us, depending on complainant/accused's influence, financial status, connectivity.

7. There are exceptions though. Someone like Raj Thackeray may have numerous cases registered against him, but being a politician with a cadre, he can get away for long. MF Husain also faced scores of FIRs but he had the means to live away lavishly, though he had to leave the country.

8. It is just like, if you have a row with an MLA or MP or business tycoon, and you go to police station, they generally ask you to leave your complaint, not registering FIR immediately, unless you also have some 'weight' or you are too persistent. This is the problem in our 'system'.

9. The issue is this 'freedom' to register FIR or not register FIR, at will. To register FIR or not register FIR, under pressure or influence. Everyone is affected by these double standards. And even 'police reforms' in certain states and the introduction of commissioner system in certain states, failed to tackle the anomaly.

10. The issue of filing multiple FIRs also needs to be redressed. Though it is a fundamental right, but often, organisations with all-India presence, do it to hound a person. They are able to do it because of their network. Should such FIRs be clubbed or can it be discouraged! Can this issue be redressed?