Tripura: Global journalists’ body demand for withdrawal of UAPA cases

In a complaint filed on 3 November, Tripura police claimed 102 social media accounts were responsible for spreading “objectionable news items/statements,” and the account holders were charged under draconian UAPA.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organisation that promotes press freedom worldwide, urged Tripura Police to immediately drop a terror investigation into journalists for their social media posts about anti-Muslim violence during the last week of October.

In a complaint filed on 3 November, Tripura police claimed 102 social media accounts were responsible for spreading “objectionable news items/statements,” and the account holders were charged under draconian UAPA.

The international body of journalists said that it has identified five of the 102 accounts under police scrutiny as belonging to journalists.

The journalists are Maktoob’s Meer Faisal, freelance journalist Sartaj Alam, Newsclick’s senior editor Shyam Meera Singh, freelance journalist Arif Shah and London-based monthly newspaper Byline Times’s global correspondent C.J. Werleman.

“Indian police in Tripura need to accept that reporting on sectarian violence, on Twitter or elsewhere, is a normal activity for journalists and hardly a crime,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

“The police must stop harassing the journalists for doing their job and drop the terror investigations immediately,” Butler said.

Two days ago, Shyam Meera Singh along with two lawyers Mukesh, Ansar Indori- booked under UAPA over fact-finding report on Tripura violence- have moved the Supreme Court for the quashing of the FIR filed against them under the draconian UAPA

The Supreme Court agreed to an early listing of the plea.

The first of these UAPA cases were filed against two lawyers, Ansar Indori and Mukesh, who were part of a fact-finding team investigating the violence against minorities in the state. Charges were filed against them after the fact-finding team’s report, ‘Humanity under attack in Tripura; #Muslim lives matter’, was published which highlighted the vandalisation of at least 12 mosques, nine shops and three houses belonging to Muslims.

Following this, Tripura police arrested four members of a Delhi-based Muslim NGO, Tahreek Farogh e Islam, who carried out a visit to Tripura. All four who were charged under UAPA were sent to 14 days in police custody by Dharmanagar Court.

The 102 social media account holders (68 Twitter profiles, 32 Facebook profiles, and 2 YouTubers) who were charged under draconian UAPA, also include Jamaat-e-Islami Hind vice president Mohammad Salim Engineer, former Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Zafarul Islam Khan, Popular Front of India general secretary Anis Ahmed, Students Islamic Organisation of India national president Salman Ahmad and activist Sharjeel Usmani.

The cases were first filed at the West Agartala police station and were subsequently transferred to Tripura’s crime branch. 

Tripura’s BJP government and state police have been claiming that there was no law and order problem in the state and no mosques were burnt by Hindutva groups despite media including Maktoob reported several anti-Muslim crimes across the northeast state.

Maktoob reported more than two dozen hate crimes against Muslims including mosque vandalisation, attacks against Muslim houses, shops, and hawkers, molesting Muslim women, and anti-Muslim and genocidal slogans during the rallies.