The Home Ministry has denied that it ordered the Assam government to take action against four journalists and a media house on the basis of a complaint by an RSS-linked Maharashtra-based voluntary organisation named Legal Rights Observatory (LRO).
The LRO on 17 April posted on their Facebook page that Home Ministry had ordered the Assam government to carry out an investigation against the media outfits and editors based upon its complaint. The accompanying picture of the letter dated 16 April and signed by an undersecretary of the home ministry addressed to the DGP and the heads of the home and political department of Assam. The letter clearly mentions the complaint filed by Vinay Joshi, the convener of LRO.
Vinay Joshi had been a RSS pracharak in North East from 2001 to 2010. Joshi’s areas of operation were primarily Assam and Meghalaya.
But the Home Ministry on 19 April denied that such a probe had been ordered. The ministry said it has forwarded the complaint to police and the home and political department as routine practice holds. The complaint filed by Vinay Joshi comes under a public grievance petition and the ministry routinely forwards such petitions to the departments concerned, it said.
The Complaint by LRO
The complaint filed by LRO lists Asomiya Pratidin, an Assamese daily; three news channels Pratidin Time, Prag News and News 18-Assamese TV channel and the online news portal Inside NE. The complaint also names the editors of the Pratidin Time, Prag News and Inside NE, namely, Nitumoni Saikia, Ajit Bhuyan and Afrida Hussain. Moreover, the complaint also names Manjit Mahanta who was formerly associated with Asomiya Pratidin.
As per the Scroll report, the complaint alleges:
“Aforesaid people and their electronic, digital and print media outlets are directly broadcasting videos and propaganda material of newly inducted militants in battle fatigue to propagate militant ideology and to give fresh boost to ULFA and other militant groups.
“If government continues to ignore their blatant, violent propaganda, it will continue to create new militants with fresh blood in Assam and situation will worsen during Lok Sabha elections.
“On numerous occasions of recent past, all media outlets mentioned here have openly professed the need to take up arms to fight against central government and broadcasting propaganda videos of ULFA cadres along with telephonic interviews of absconding ULFA chief.
“With this letter, we are earnestly requesting your Ministry to issue stern warning to all media outlets in this regard and to explore all legal means to curtail their propaganda by invoking all stringent means available, so that Assam could be saved from burning again.”
Anti-CAB Movement in Assam
After the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed in the Lok Sabha, Assam witnessed huge waves of protests across the state against it. The senior journalists that are named in the LRO’s complaint were seen to be very vocal against the Bill and BJP’s policies. Nitumoni Saikia, the editor-in-chief of Pratidin Time, Manjit Mahanta and Ajit Bhuyan, in their various capacities reached out to the public for campaign against the CAB.
The Home Ministry’s instruction to Assam government is not the first time that anti-CAB activists have been put under the scanner. In January, sedition charges were slapped on three of the prominent leaders of the movement, including eminent intellectual Dr Hiren Gohain. Notably, Manjit Mahanta was also among the three who were charged with sedition.
Also Read: Sedition Charges on Hiren Gohain, Others an Attempt to Gag Voices Against Citizenship Bill
LRO’s complaint saying that these media outfits openly invoked taking up of arms and boosting ULFA is a blatant misappropriation of the facts. During the anti-CAB movements, videos of some young people joining ULFA went viral on social media platforms before they were broadcasted in the news channels.
LRO’s complaint is not the first time it has taken offence on issues pertaining to the North East. Reportedly, LRO, in February, wrote to the Deputy Commissioners of Assam to recover the damages caused by the Assam Bandhs called by civil society groups over the CAB.
In their Facebook page, LRO describes thus—“LRO is voluntary organization zealously dealing with the matters pertaining to violation of fundamental rights of Army, Police and society in general”.