Agartala: Two women journalists, arrested by Tripura police over their writings on the recent communal incidents which allegedly created a “sense of hatred between communities”, were granted bail by a magistrate’s court on Monday.
Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha, journalists with HW News Network, were produced before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Gomati district Shubhra Nath, who granted them bail on bail bonds of Rs 7,500. They have been asked to mark their attendance at Kakrabon police station of the district on Tuesday before leaving the state.
Presenting his arguments for bail, their advocate Pijush Biswas asserted there was no evidence that they spread communal hatred. “The charges made against the journalists are completely baseless. Police filed the case with mala fide intention, he insisted.
Biswas said his clients will move the Supreme Court for quashing the case.
An FIR was filed against the journalists at Fatikroy police station on Sunday on a complaint by a VHP supporter alleging that they had maligned the image of the Tripura government with their reporting, according to a statement issued by their employer.
The duo was detained by Assam police in Karimganj district on Sunday, when they were on way to Silchar airport, at the request of Tripura police, and kept at a government-run shelter home for women.
They were arrested by Tripura police on Monday morning and produced before the CJM’s court in Gomati district.
A senior Tripura police official had claimed the journalists planned to fly outside the state. Officials asked them to meet some police officers before leaving. The duo then started for Silchar in Assam without informing the authorities, prompting Tripura police to request their Assam counterparts to detain them.
The official said the journalists had posted on social media that a mosque was burnt in Gomati district and a copy of the Quran was damaged. Police suspect that the videos uploaded by her (Sakunia) were doctored and police want to know if the videos are fake or true by interrogating them,” he added.
In a tweet on November 11, Sakunia had written, #Tripuraviolence Darga Bazaar: On 19th October at around 2:30 am, some unidentified people burnt down the mosque in Darga Bazaar area. People in the neighborhood are very upset with the fact that now they don’t have any place nearby to go and pray.
A press release issued by the office of Tripura police chief V S Yadav had claimed that Sakunia’s posts were not true and promoted a sense of hatred between communities.
In this social media post, she posted a video of her visit to the half burned prayer hall damaged by mischievous fire in the house of one Rahamat Ali of Hurijala, PS Kakraban on 11/11/2021 to claim that one holy Quran was burned in the incident occurred on the night of 19/10/2021 which refers to Kakraban PS Case No. 74/2021 U/S 436 IPC.
“This is contrary to the findings so far revealed in course of investigation as presence of no such damaged books/documents was brought to the notice of investigating officer and fire service staff who extinguished the fire, the police statement said.
The statement added that a team of lawyers, which visited the state earlier, had made a similar claim with a questionable photograph. It added that people with vested interests were trying to flare up communal tension in the state.
Tripura police had registered a case against the four Supreme Court lawyers under the stringent anti-terror law-the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act- and various sections of IPC for allegedly promoting communal disharmony with their social media posts.
On November 6, it booked 102 social media account holders under the UAPA, besides criminal conspiracy and forgery charges, and served notices to the authorities of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to freeze their accounts and inform it about their particulars.
The actions of the police establishment drew criticism from various human rights and free speech advocacy groups.
After the two journalists were detained in Assam, the Editors Guild of India had condemned police action against them and demanded their immediate release.
Also read: Editors Guild of India ‘shocked’ at Tripura Police FIR against journalists, seeks fair probe