Voices Raised in Favour of NewsClick on a Large Scale in Punjab
Farmers, labourers, students, human rights and cultural organisations of Punjab have raised their voices against the FIR lodged by Delhi Police against NewsClick and numerous journalists associated with it, calling it an attack on democracy and freedom of expression. There have also been demonstrations against the Narendra Modi government and Delhi Police at many places in Punjab.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha and other farmer organisations say that media houses like NewsClick, which covered the farmer movement, the protests and other issues arising out of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens impartially, are facing false allegations. Because their journalism questioned those who wield power and authority, they are being defamed and harassed, according to Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), Punjab’s largest farmer organisation.
Ugrahan says, “The action taken against the journalists and staff associated with NewsClick is the latest anti-people step of the Modi government. By taking action against NewsClick, the government is targeting journalists who impartially covered the farmers’ struggle by associating it with China and presenting it as if some foreign power is behind the farmer’s struggle. This is a policy of suppressing people’s voices and struggles under the guise of chauvinism. All democratic people, including farmers, should raise their voice against this.”
The Kirti Kisan Union, another influential farmer organisation of Punjab, held demonstrations across Punjab against the SYL [Satluj-Yamuna Link] canal issue and the raids on NewsClick. In it, apart from farmers, ordinary people also participated enthusiastically. Rajinder Singh Deep Singhwala, general secretary of Kirti Kisan Union, says, “In Hitler’s time, as soldiers were arresting a poet, his child asked, ‘Mother, why are they taking Papa away?’ The mother replied that your father had written a poem against the ruler. The child said, ‘What is the big deal in it? The ruler could have written a poem against Papa; why arrest him?’ The mother replied, ‘Son, the ruler is not a poet; he is a fascist--he could only have done this.’
“It is the same thing in the NewsClick case. If the Modi government had any problem with NewsClick’s work, it could have countered through its ‘Godi Media’. But the Modi government does not believe in freedom of communication and expression. Therefore, this is what the government could do. We demand that the cases registered under the UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] against media houses and journalists be cancelled. A story has been fabricated in the FIR to defame the farmer’s historical movement. This is part of the long-standing policy of suppressing anti-government voices.”
In Punjab, youths, students and other sections protested against this action. Youth and student organisations like the Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Lalkar), Students for Society, Punjab Students Union, Punjab Students Union (Shaheed Randhawa), Punjab Students Union (Lalkar), Naujawan Bharat Sabha etc. demonstrated in different parts of the state. Voices were raised in favour of NewsClick in all the prominent universities of Punjab. Impressive demonstrations were held in districts like Bathinda, Fazilka, Faridkot, Chandigarh, Patiala, Amritsar, Moga, Barnala, Muktsar, Sangrur etc., in which young people participated enthusiastically.
Sandeep, president of Students for Society, says, “These attacks are part of the Modi government’s policy to suppress democratic voices. Now, things have reached their peak. Writers, social workers and journalists who question the Modi government are sometimes raided by the police and sometimes by other agencies. They are being continuously harassed. This government is creating narratives like Maoism, left-terrorism and China to win the 2024 elections.” Amandeep Singh, general secretary of the Punjab Students Union (Lalkar), termed the action taken against NewsClick and journalists as repressive and sees it as an attack by the Modi government on freedom of speech.
The cultural and literary organisations of Punjab have also strongly condemned the arrest of journalists and the attack on journalism. Two big organisations of Punjabi writers, ‘Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha’ and ‘Pragatisheel Lekhak Sangh, Punjab’, have also expressed their anger over this. Expressing his feelings, Dr Sukhdev Singh Sirsa, General Secretary of the Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, says, “It is clear that the Modi government is under a lot of pressure and scared. It cannot tolerate any voice raised against it. That is why honest and fearless journalists, intellectuals and workers are being harassed. I wish our writers, too, would not limit themselves to mere condemnatory statements but give up their fears, petty greed and desires and stand with media organisations like NewsClick and journalists, intellectuals and social workers who question power. There should be protests on a large scale.”
The ‘Jan Sangharsh Manch Haryana’ in Punjab’s neighbouring state also organised an impressive protest demonstration in the Kurukshetra district in favour of NewsClick and journalists. Phool Singh, President of the Jan Sangharsh Manch Haryana, said, “This is a dictatorial step taken by the Modi government to threaten independent media institutions and impartial journalists and stop them from doing their work. Let people raise their voices against the Modi government to protect media freedom and freedom of speech.”
The author is an independent journalist. The views are personal.
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