Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb today asked Tripura’s top cop to review cases filed against journalists and lawyers under a controversial anti-terror law. 102 people, including lawyers and journalists, were recently charged with sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly sharing fake visuals of violence in Tripura last month, which the police claim disturbed the peace in the state and created a law-and-order challenge.
The Supreme Court had on November 17 granted relief to three people who had filed a plea demanding the UAPA cases against them be cancelled. Journalist Shyam Meera Singh was charged for posting a tweet that said “Tripura is burning”. Supreme Court lawyers Ansar Indori (from the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation) and Mukesh (from the Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties) were part of an independent fact-finding team that had visited the state to assess the situation on the ground and prepare a report. The SC had issued a notice to the Tripura government and said that no coercive action was to be taken against the three until further orders.
On the CM’s direction, the state’s Director General of Police V.S. Yadav has asked the Additional Director General of the crime branch of Tripura police to review cases filed against lawyers and journalists under UAPA.
Various journalists’ bodies and civil liberties groups had slammed the Tripura government for trying to “intimidate and silence” the media and demanded immediate withdrawal of these cases.
The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) had said it was “shocked and dismayed” by the act of Tripura Police of booking Shyam Meera Singh, a journalist, along with others under the UAPA. “Singh has alleged that he has been booked for tweeting, ‘Tripura is burning’. It is a journalist’s job to inform, to highlight, and present the true picture of events. It is not the journalist’s job to please people in power,” the journalists’ body had said.
The Editors Guild of India had also released a statement expressing shock and demanding a fair and impartial inquiry into the circumstances of the violence. The Guild asked the state not to “penalise” journalists. “This is an extremely disturbing trend where such a harsh law, wherein the processes of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence,” their statement said.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) had condemned the FIRs and demanded the police to withdraw the cases. “…police have invoked the draconian provisions of UAPA law only because of the findings of the FFT that the large scale violence which destroyed numerous homes, shops, mosques and other properties of Muslims in many towns in Tripura was the result of orchestrated violence unleashed by Hindu majoritarian groups like VHP and HJM, against minority Muslims with the tacit connivance and conscious abdication of their duties by the Tripura Police,” a press release signed by National President of PUCL Ravi Kiran Jain and national general secretary Dr V Suresh said.