CPIML organized a week-long countrywide protest week from 9-15 October against the raids on NewsClick journalists and arrests of its founding editor Prabir Purkayastha and Admin head Amit Chakrabarty.
The Central Committee of the Party in its meeting held at Patna has strongly condemned the raids and arrests of journalists associated with the progressive digital news platform NewsClick and human rights campaigners and civil society activists in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Coupled with the continuing targeting of leaders of opposition parties, this marks a major escalation of state repression and suppression of dissent ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The NewsClick raids and arrests set up a dangerous precedent where pro-people journalism is being sought to be equated with terrorism. Chinese companies are openly doing business in India with major involvement in India's sporting events, major television channels and even PM Cares fund. It is ridiculous to accuse a news portal of anti-national connections by alleging any Chinese funding. Journalists covering the anti-CAA movement, farmers movement and Covid mismanagement are being treated as terrorists pursuing an anti-national agenda.
The Modi regime has already established an iron grip over India's dominant print and television media. The ongoing persecution of independent journalists and digital news platforms and illegal confiscation of digital devices is aimed at intimidating and suppressing the only critical media inputs that the people can access in today's India.
On the party’s call for countrywide protests against this campaign of intimidation and persecution, protests were held in various states including Bihar, UP, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Telangana and Karnataka. In Bihar, all the districts saw protests by CPIML and its mass organisations. A demonstration was organised in Bihta, Patna on October 9th, which was attended by a large number of people. In Jharkhand, protests took place in many districts. A march was held on October 10th in Ramgarh town which culminated at Subhash Chowk in a public meeting. This was addressed by CPIML leader Bhavaneshwar Bedia, AIKM’s Hira Gope, Naresh Badaik and many others.
A protest was held in Delhi at Jantar Mantar on October 10th jointly by left parties which was addressed by CPIML politburo member Ravi Rai, CPIM leader Brinda Karat and CPI leader Amarjit Kaur and others.
Earlier, the All India People's Forum (AIPF) in Patna held a protest on October 3rd condemning the raids, detention and arrests of NewsClick staff in Delhi. Hundreds of people marched from Jagjivan Ram Institute to Shahid Smarak where a protest meeting was addressed by many prominent citizens and political leaders. CPIML General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, JDU spokesperson Neeraj Kumar, former speaker of Bihar legislative assembly Uday Narayan Chaudhary, social activists Prakash Luis and Satyanarayan Madan and many others spoke on the occasion.
Comrade Dipankar condemned Modi regime's continuing repression of media and democratic voices terming it a tactic of colonial rule. He said that the use of anti-terror laws to supress media and equating honest journalism with terrorism exposes Modi's desperation even as fake news peddler godi media are being protected.Honest journalists who speak truth to power are facing persecution and jails, even murders, he said.
Immediate protests were held in many cities including Delhi, Kolkata, Ranchi and Udaipur. On October 4th in Delhi, a protest was attended by activists from CPIML, AICCTU, RYA, AISA along with many other progressive organisations. The ploy to silence voices of dissent by the government was strongly condemned by the speakers.
In Ranchi, many journalists, intellectuals, cultural activists and political social workers gathered to express their anger against such attack on journalists.
Udaipur witnessed a big protest on October 5th which was attended by media persons and activists as well as common citizens. They condemned the Modi regime for using CBI, ED, Income Tax Department, Police and other agencies for attacking democratic forces and voices of dissent. Many organisations including Rajasthan Loktantrik Morcha, PUCL, AIPWA, AICCTU, Jagaruk Yuva Sangathan, AIKM took part in this protest and sent a memorandum to the President of India through the district collector. Arun Vyas of PUCL criticised the central government for its unconstitutional acts. Prof. Farhat Banu of AIPWA said the attacks on honest journalism which brings truth before the people must be opposed. She called the persecution of NewsClick journalists a big conspiracy. Advocate Ramesh Nandwana condemned the misuse of government agencies and said that although the cases imposed on these journalists are false, even then if there was a need to make an inquiry, the police could have sent summons instead of raiding houses of so many people. This was clearly an attempt to intimidate people who dared to bring truth against the government.
In Motihari, protesters from CPIML burnt an effigy of Narendra Modi on October 4th demanding to stop persecution of journalists, withdrawal of cases filed against NewsClick journalists and release of arrested journalists. Prabhudev Yadav, CPIML district secretary, said the Modi government cannot snatch away people’s freedom of speech and that the repression of journalists and human rights activists will be opposed in the streets. Vishnudev Prasad Yadav termed seizure of digital devices of these journalists an attempt to intimidate those who dare to speak but such Modi tactics are bound to fail. Similar protests were also held by CPIML in Nawada, Dhanarua in Patna and Dumrao.