In the latest turn of events over the controversy surrounding the reported initiation of action against Assamese journalists, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has clarified that it has not asked the Assam government to conduct inquiry against journalists in the state who are opposed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).
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Earlier, a Nagpur based body Legal Rights Observatory (LRO) reportedly affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had filed complaint against five Assam journalists and media outlets allegedly for “their role in spreading militant ideologies” and “actively assisting fresh recruitment of Assam youth in banned militant groups by running loud media propaganda.”
The Assam media personalities against whom LRA filed the complaint “to seek investigation of financial transactions and criminal activities under UAPA and NSA Acts” included the editor in chief of Pratidin Time, Nitumoni Saikia, editor in chief of Prag news, Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, editor of Inside NE portal, Afrida Hussain, Manjit Mahanata from Asomiya pratidin newspaper and News 18, an Assamese channel.
The LRO had accused them of “exploiting” the turmoil over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 through December and January in Assam.
The CAB has been a point of controversies and conflicts as it’s discriminatory by design and is said to be disastrous for not just minorities but also others, if implemented.
After hues and cries on the reported initiation of inquiry on Assam journalists, the MHA said that this was “absolutely baseless and a mischievous interpretation of facts.”
“This is to clarify that the Union home ministry has not asked the government of Assam to initiate any enquiry against any editor or member of the press/media,” PTI quoted from the ministry’s statement.
One Vinay Joshi, LRO’s convenor and a resident of Ratnagiri in Mahrashtra had sent a grievance petition on February 14 to the ministry on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, stating that the issue had been “exploited by different militant groups like United Liberation Front of Assam and that the media has propagated militant ideology to give fresh boost to the militant groups”, the MHA said in its statement. It said that “following the standard practice” his petition was “routinely” forwarded to the Government of Assam. The MHA denied having ordered any inquiry.
On Friday, the LRO which claims to be a “voluntary organisation” said that their complaint was regarding the “spreading ULFA recruitment drive and not against those who opposed CAB-2016”. “Still, we once again reiterate that, our complaint against 4 media entities, which aggressively broadcasted videos, photographs, statements, news items which were directly or indirectly promoting armed insurgency is still valid and we will explore all possible legal means to pursue it till conclusive end,” they added.
In its statement the LRO also resorted to personal attacks on the Wire.in founder Siddharth Vardarajan and Professor Nandini Sundar.
Curiously, the LRO has been initiating complaints mainly against minority and minority rights groups and has been engaged into dubiously tagging scholars and academics as extremists. Their Facebook page has a meagre following of around 1000 members.