Skip to main content

Punia arrest, criminal cases on journalists meant to 'compel' them to toe govt line

Counterview Desk 

Condemning the arrest of freelance journalist Mandeep Punia and the barrage of FIRs against journalists in different parts of the country following the January 26 peasants’ tractor rally, the civil rights network* Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) has demanded their immediate release dropping of FIRs against them. CASR said, “This targeting of journalists threatens to wipe out voices struggling to maintain a semblance of integrity and independence while absolving the perpetrators of violence.”
A platform with over 36 organisations, CASR said, “The targeting of journalists reporting on police brutality is now all too familiar.” Giving example of several journalists who were arrested recent in the recent past and imposition of the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of some, the CASR statement said, this stand in sharp contrast to the “generous judicial interventions for Arnab Goswami by the highest court of this country invoking Article 21.”

Text:

On January 30, Mandeep Punia, a freelance journalist who worked for The Caravan magazine and Junputh, was dragged across the police barricades at Singhu Border and arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. While his whereabouts were unknown for a long while, it later came to be known that he was being held in the Alipur Police Station despite denials by the police there.
The next day at 5 pm, another journalist, Dharmendra Singh from Online News India was also picked up but let off after signing an undertaking. Meanwhile, Mandeep Punia was beaten in custody and then late at night the police issued an FIR 52/2021 charging him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 186 (obstructing public servant from his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty). The police allege that Mandeep misbehaved with officials.
However, eyewitnesses claim that the police objected to Mandeep recording an altercation between the police and a local person trying to cross the barricade and hence arrested him. Mandeep had been closely monitoring the Kisan Andolan since September looking into issues of Minimum Support Price, the gathering momentum of the protests and the growing unity between peasants and workers at Singhu Border. He also covered the role of the police in targeting leaders of the agitation and local trade unions, notably the Majdoor Adhikar Sanghatan whose leaders were recently arrested.
More recently, Mandeep had been tracking down BJP activists who pretended to be locals while attacking the Kisan Andolan at Singhu Border on January 29, 2021. His efforts at exposing the ruling BJP’s role in the attack and the police’s complicity has led to his arrest. The day after his arrest, he was produced before the magistrate before time and presented without his lawyer. His bail was rejected and he has been sent to Tihar Jail for 14 days judicial custody.
The arrest of Mandeep Punia is not an isolated incident but must be seen alongside the barrage of FIRs filed against journalists in Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in the wake of the tractor rally on January 26th, 2021. Several FIRs have been registered against six journalists including Anant Nath, Mrinal Pande, Paresh Nath, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod K Jose and Zafar Agha.
These contain charges under a range of IPC sections including 120B (criminal conspiracy), 124A (sedition), 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (promoting enmity), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 504 (intentional insult with intent to promote breach of peace), 505(2) (statements conducive to public mischief). These FIRs were filed ostensibly in light of the journalists’ social media posts on the killing of Navreet Singh during the tractor rally.
An FIR filed in Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh also charges journalist Siddharth Varadarajan for a tweet on a story reporting claims by the family of Navreet Singh which contradicts the police’s version. This FIR includes IPC sections 153B and 505(2). The targeting of journalists with criminal cases seeks to intimidate, harass and silence reporters or compel them to toe the line set by the Government.
Mandeep Punia’s arrest comes a day after around 200 BJP-led goons calling themselves ‘locals’ attacked the Kisan Andolan at Singhu border. They pelted stones, burned the bedding and tents for women and brutally beat-up people, notably the Sikh youth. All the while, police in riot gear silently looked on, springing into action only to beat those peasant protesters who the BJP led goons delivered into their hands. When video evidence of these actions started to make the rounds, several journalists tried to locate these so-called locals.
Rajdeep Sardesai
Just hours before his arrest, Mandeep released a video identifying several local BJP functionaries, notably Pradeep Khattri Tholedar and Aman Dabas, in the crowd that attacked the Kisan Andolan. Based on discussions with locals in Bawana, Mandeep narrated how these BJP leaders, particularly Aman Dabas, had mobilised people and made arrangements for petrol bombs to be hurled at the tractor rally on January 26.
FIRs have been registered against several journalists including Anant Nath, Mrinal Pande, Paresh Nath, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod K Jose and Zafar Agha
He explained how the peasants soon realised that the police-approved route would entail passing through areas where violent attacks were being planned. Furthermore, Mandeep revealed the ways in which certain media houses and journalists had manipulated the facts and images to show a clash between the ‘locals’ and peasants despite it being clear that the attack was led by the BJP functionaries with the complicity of the police, particularly the Alipur SHO.
Referring to the suspension of mobile internet services in the area and the need to document injuries suffered by the peasants at the border, he appealed to people to help document and hold accountable those responsible for the violence. In one of his latest posts on social media, Mandeep spoke of a Sikh youth, Ranjeet Singh, who he witnessed being brutally beaten by the BJP goons and the police and then later being carted into a police vehicle. Ranjeet Singh’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
Mandeep had even stated that he, with other journalists and lawyers, would file a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court, calling it his journalistic duty. Ironically, after his own arrest, journalists and lawyers were not informed of his whereabouts for several hours raising similar concerns for his safety. It is clear that Mandeep Punia’s sharp investigation and reporting were proving inconvenient for the police.
The targeting of journalists reporting on police brutality is now all too familiar. The arrest of Siddique Kappan in the wake of the Hathras rape case in Uttar Pradesh under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) along with three others is one such case. The repeated arrests of journalist Prashant Kanojia for social media posts found unpalatable for the Uttar Pradesh government is another.
The arrests of two journalists Dhiren Sadokpam and Paojel Chaoba in Manipur for an article deemed a threat to national security and their subsequent release following an undertaking has had a chilling effect on journalists in the state. The continued incarceration of Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan under UAPA since August 2018 for reporting on human rights violations was followed by the targeting of Masrat Zahra and Gowhar Geelani under UAPA in 2020.
The outrageous targeting of comedian Kunal Kamra with contempt of court only pales before the arrest of another comedian Munawar Faruqui for jokes likely to hurt religious sentiments, jokes that he has not cracked. The targeting of journalists and comedians perceived as opposed to the ruling dispensation comes alongside the leeway given to journalists and politicians peddling falsehoods favouring the BJP.
The generous judicial interventions for Arnab Goswami by the highest court of this country invoking Article 21, the right to liberty, are only garnished by the leaked conversations between the journalist and ex-chief of the media broadcaster’s body. These reveal the deep rot within mainstream media and its links to the top leaders of the government.
The Brahmanical control over information through outright repression now threatens to wipe out any voices struggling to maintain a semblance of integrity and independence. The violence perpetrated by the agents of Hindutva have been edited out of the papers, saffron-washed and made palatable for the consumption of the dominant caste Hindu male audience.
Those who dare to expose the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist forces aggressively assaulting democratic principles are deemed recalcitrant and find themselves behind bars. Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) strongly condemns the targeting of journalists and demands the immediate release of Mandeep Punia and the dropping of FIRs against journalists. 
This use of colonial era laws like sedition is intended to intimidate and silence targeted media personnel and tacitly absolve the perpetrators of violence. CASR stands in solidarity with Mandeep Punia and journalists like him who have taken their professional responsibility for reporting diligently as essential for a democracy despite facing the brute force of state repression.
---
*AISA, AISF, APCR, Bhim Army, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, BSCEM, CEM, CRPP, CTF, Disha, DISSC, DSU, DTF, IAPL, IFTU, IMK, Karnataka Janashakti, KYS, Lokpaksh, LSI, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, Mazdoor Patrika, Mehnatkash Mahila Sangathan, Morcha Patrika, NAPM, NBS, NCHRO, Nowruz, NTUI, PDSU, People’s Watch, Rihai Manch, Samajwadi Janparishad, Satyashodak Sangh, SFI, United Against Hate, WSS

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

Regional parties, anti-Congress progressives, civil society groups 'joining' Bharat Jodo

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey*  The Congress party declared Bharat Chhodo (Quit India) movement against the British regime in 1942. The Congress party has now launched a movement Bharat Jodo (Connecting and Uniting India) against the Modi regime in 2022. Indian people have had a journey of 80 years since Mahatma Gandhi gave that Quit India call to the British and we have to agree that we stand most divided in our modern history when Rahul Gandhi is giving this Bharat Jodo call to the nation. And back then, Congress was a thriving idealistic political movement against the British rulers and now it is an ever weakening political organization electorally defeated several times. However, it is India at stake, not just the Congress party. That is why so many regional political parties, civil society organizations, traditional anti-Congress progressive forces like socialists and communists, intellectuals and civil servants have declared their support and are proactively partici

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Excess to cheetah in Kuno to increase 'woes' of local people, 'disturb' wildlife balance

Bharat Dogra*  The release of eight cheetahs into the Kuno National Park ( Madhya Pradesh) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17, although accompanied by a media blitz, has raised several questions. The animals were flown from Namibia to Gwalior and from there they were taken to the release site in a helicopter. Official sources have stated that this is the first time a large carnivorous species has been moved across continents for establishing a new population. This first release will be followed by others under this project. However, precisely for this reason, it is important to be cautious because if such translocations have been generally avoided in the past, there may have been reasons for this and at the same time we do not have much learning experiences from the past. The Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952, although this very fast moving animal is still remembered in the folklore of many areas. Hence the first impulse is to say that trying to introduce and revive

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.