Ranjona Banerji: The Tripura Tactic: Intimidate and Arrest

16 Nov,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

 

What really happened in Tripura?

 

What we do know for sure is that journalists who reported on the vandalism of mosques have been threatened, harassed, intimidated and arrested for spreading “communal disharmony” by the Tripura Police.

 

To go back a bit, despite evidence to the contrary, the Tripura Police denied that there was any violence or threat to mosques in the state. This is in spite of the police providing security to mosques.

 

Local RSS, VHP and Hindu Jagran Manch outfits held rallies in Tripura to protest the violence against Hindus in Bangladesh. They wanted the Indian government to send a delegation to Bangladesh. It should be noted that the Bangladesh government came down heavily on those involved in the violence. The same cannot be said the Indian government’s reaction to violence against Muslims committed by these RSS-related and Hindu militant groups in India.

 

The less said about the mainstream media the better. Because there was no widespread media coverage of Tripura, it was hard to know what was happening. The only news that filtered in was from freelance, independent journalists and news outlets that focus on Muslim-related news. That we even have such outlets is testament to how little coverage they get from the mainstream media. What we did see is a series of threatening tweets from the Tripura Police claiming that nothing had happened and anyone who said otherwise would feel the brunt of it.

 

However, there are also reports that on October 21, police personnel were injured in a clash with Hindutva organizations. And an officer claimed security was given to mosques. Why do so if there was no perceived threat?

 

https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/bangladesh-protests-jamiat-claims-attacks-cops-say-keeping-watch-7587395/

 

The focus of the Tripura Police, in spite of these clashes and the supposed security to mosques, was on a couple of journalists, reporting on the violence for HW News: Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarnaa Jha. Sakunia has been active on Twitter with her reports and photographs. She has painstakingly recorded the damage done to mosques in Tripura amidst police denials and then reluctant admission of some vandalism.

 

For their efforts, Sakunia and Jha were arrested by the Tripura Police on an FIR – irony of ironies – filed by a VHP member.

 

The extent of the intimidation is in this statement from the Network of Women in Media, India. Note that the police were happy to break the laws of the land regarding when women can be taken to police stations and more.

“Drop False Cases and End Intimidation of Media by Tripura Police”: NWMI

 

Sakunia and Jha have since been released on bail but their troubles are far from over. Several media organizations have expressed solidary with the two reporters and condemned the police action. However, this solidarity is from the few organizations that usually speak out against government threats to the media. Television “news” is hardly bothered since they have little or no connection with actual journalism. And most Indian newspapers remain in 20th century ivory towers when it comes to standing together with their own.

 

https://thewire.in/government/harassed-for-doing-their-job-journalists-condemn-tripura-polices-action-against-2-reporters

 

Unfortunately for those who do not understand journalism and this includes the current bosses of the mainstream media, journalism’s primary role is placing before the public what is wrong with society. If the media doesn’t do it, who will? The government will not make the problems of people public because it can gain neither political nor official advantage from that. Regardless of the Tripura Police’s intimidatory tactics, the Constitution of India gives journalists the right to disagree and expose. That the media should be in disagreement from the government is its job.

 

This article from Scroll points out the irony that creating communal disharmony is not a crime. But reporting on communal disharmony is:

https://scroll.in/article/1010646/

 

The Modi government has massive tantrums with every international report on India’s falling press freedom rankings. That is understandable for a government where image is everything and reality is fake.

 

But the complicity of the mainstream media in destroying India’s journalistic credibility is a crime that will hurt long after this government changes for another.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

 

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