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Journalists' arrest: Govt's 'scare tactics' won't stop resistance to injustice, warns NCHRO

Delhi protest against arrest of Mandeep Punia
Counterview Desk 
NGO network National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), condemning the recent arrest of journalist Mandeep Punia and demanding immediate release of locked up journalists, has said that though he has been granted bail, the ploy is not just to intimidate people into silence, but to keep them locked up so that the voices that rise against injustice are kept under check.
A statement, signed by Ishu Jaiswal, coordinator, NCHRO, said, “It also sends a message to other journalists and people who stand for justice; a message that should they dare rise against the injustice happening around the country, the government with come after them, too.”

Text:

On January 30, 2021, the police at the Singhu border, where the protesting farmers are gathered, arrested a journalist who was merely doing his job at the site. The journalist, Mandeep Punia had been closely covering the farmers’ protests since last year, and has been among the few voices presenting truth amidst the pack of lies circulated by the mainstream media.
Though he has been granted bail now, we condemn the act of his arresting. Moreover, we must remember that many other journalists remain locked up.
Punia had been working for “The Caravan” and “Junputh”. Reportedly, before his arrest, he was dragged across the barricades by the police. The police’s narrative says that he had obstructed the policemen from doing their duty, and had physically manhandled the policemen present there. However, his bail plea as well as eye witnesses deny such events taking place. Punia is not the only journalists who has been at the receiving end of repression from the state and the subject of a campaign of lies.
The list of journalists who have been locked up, booked under serious charges, and defamed in the mainstream media is endless. Last year, Kashmiri journalists Gowher Geelani and Meeran Haider were booed under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). 
During the latter half of the year, Siddique Kappan, secretary of the Kerala Unit of Working Journalists, who was going to Hathras to cover the gangrape case that had happened there, was picked up by the police. Along with him, three other activists were also picked up. They were all subsequently booked under UAPA, and have since been under custody.
Ploy is not just to intimidate people into silence, but to keep them locked up so that the voices that rise against injustice are kept under check
The ploy is not just to intimidate people into silence, but to keep them locked up so that the voices that rise against injustice are kept under check. It also sends a message to other journalists and people who stand for justice; a message that should they dare rise against the injustice happening around the country, the government with come after them, too.
Mandeep Punia
Madeep Punia has been booked under section 186, i.e., obstructing public servant from his duty; section 332, i.e., voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty; and section 353, i.e., assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty. The witnesses present at the site have said that Punia was recording an argument between Police and a local person at the area when the policemen objected.
Additionally, Punia had also been covering the events surrounding the Majdoor Adhikar Sangathan, an organisation of labourers that has recently been under the spotlight for standing up to the injustices meted out to workers at the Kundli industrial area in Haryana. Nodeep Kaur, a member of the said organisation, had also been arrested a few days ago and beaten up by the police, sustaining injuries that amount to sexual violence.
The arrest of Mandeep Punia comes at a time when there is not the slightest doubt about the intention behind the arrests. Following the events of January 26, 2021, the campaign of misinformation, slander and lies directed at the farmers protesting has been bolstered and given a boost. Along with the campaign comes the spate of arrests of people covering the farmers’ protests with integrity. 
Recently, six journalists were charged with sedition along with other charges for merely tweeting about the death of a man near the ITO crossing in Delhi on January 26, the basis for the charges being that they had implied the man had died because of the police firings.
The National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations condemns the arrest of Mandeep Punia and other journalists, and demands the immediate release of all the journalists and activists locked up. The heavy-handed tactics of the government has so far not stopped the justice loving people who have been standing firm against injustices. We would like to state that this trend will continue, and no amount of scare-tactics will stop the resistance to such injustices.

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