More Than Just 'Reporting': Two Scribes Held In Tripura Were Inciting Muslims Against Hindus
According to Tripura police officers, the conduct of the two ‘journalists’ has been suspect right from when they landed in the state on 11 November.
The two women ‘journalists’ who were detained by Tripura police Sunday (14 November) have been charged with fabricating and spreading fake news about attacks on mosques, and also instigating Muslims to attack Hindus.
Samriddhi K Sakunia and Swarna Jha reportedly work for Delhi-based news channel HW News Network.
According to Tripura police, Sakunia, who hails from Jharsuguda in Odisha, on 11 November that a copy of the Quran had been burnt by Hindus inside a prayer hall owned by one Rahmat Ali at Hurijala in the Kakraban police station area of Gomati district.
The police contacted Ali, who denied that any copy of the Quran had been burnt. The police then claimed to have contacted Sakunia on 14 November morning and asked for evidence to back her claim about the burning of the Quran.
Sakunia reportedly told the police that the evidence was available at the place of occurrence and that it was the duty of the police to collect evidence. She also informed the police that she would be taking a flight out of Agartala at 5.20 pm Sunday.
The police officer requested her to defer her journey out of Tripura so that her statement can be recorded and she can be examined by the police.
Rahmat Ali, who was questioned by the police on Sunday, said that some documents may have been burnt in the fire that engulfed the prayer hall on 19 October.
Ali added that half-burnt documents were taken away by a team from Delhi that had visited the area at the end of October.
Tripura police, keeping in mind the horrific attacks on Hindus in Amravati and some other parts of Maharashtra, which were triggered by fake reports of torching of mosques and attacks on Muslims in Tripura, decided to file a suo moto complaint against the two ‘journalists’.
The duo were charged under Sections 153A (promoting religious enmity), 153B (publishing fake news prejudicial to national integration), 120B (party to criminal conspiracy), 193 (fabrication of evidence), 504 (deliberate provocation to break public peace), 120B (party to criminal conspiracy), and 204 (destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Tripura police say Sakunia and her colleague sneaked out of the hotel at Dharmanagar where they were staying and escaped to Assam from where they planned to take a flight to Delhi.
The duo hired a taxi and took a detour from Kumarghat to cross the interstate border at Churaibari to enter Karimganj district of Assam.
On learning about their escape, Tripura police contacted their counterparts in Assam and the two were detained by Assam police at Nilam Bazar in Karimganj district.
A team from Tripura’s Dharmanagar women police station left for Assam to bring them back to Tripura, but the two ‘journalists’ refused to travel at night. They were taken to Tripura Monday morning (15 November).
The conduct of the two ‘journalists’, say Tripura police officers, has been suspect right from when they landed in the state on 11 November. They checked into a hotel in Dharmanagar (North Tripura) by declaring themselves as ‘students’ but mentioned ‘work’ as the purpose of their visit.
The two ‘journalists’ had, after landing in Agartala, traveled to Dharmanagar and visited Gomati and other Muslim-dominated localities of West Tripura, Sepahijala, and Unakoti districts.
While meeting some Muslims at Paul Bazar in the Fatikroy police station area of Unakoti district, the two allegedly made slanderous and defamatory remarks against Hindus and tried to incite the Muslims to seek revenge for the alleged attacks on mosques and Muslim shops last month.
One Kanchan Das, who is said to be associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), lodged a complaint with Fatikroy police stating that the two lady journalists were sowing communal discord and trying to incite one community against another.
Das alleged that the two were also maligning the VHP and Bajrang Dal and falsely accusing the two organisations of planning communal riots.
Das, in his complaint to the police, wrote: “Samridhi Sakunia falsely imparted the name of VHP and Bajrang Dal behind the damage of Paul Bazar masjid by fire. The complainant alleged that being a part of criminal conspiracy and to destroy the communal harmony in Tripura as well as to malign the VHP organisation and Tripura govt, the account holder intentionally imparted the name of VHP in that incident which would effect the harmony in between Hindu and Muslim community."
Fatikroy police, based on Das’ complaint, registered a case (Number 39/2021) on 14 November under Sections 120B, 153A, and 504 of the IPC.
The two were served notices under Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), asking them to appear before the Fatikroy police station by 21 November.
The widespread and deliberate attacks on Hindus during the Durga puja celebrations in Bangladesh last month triggered protests by Hindu organisations in Tripura. During a few such marches, protestors allegedly attacked a few mosques, and houses and shops belonging to Muslims in some parts of the state.
It triggered a flurry of media reports about mosques being torched. Tripura police denied these reports and released photos of mosques in perfect condition to refute the reports. But that did not stop some ‘journalists’ from continuing to publish them.
The Tripura government, aware of the damage such fake reports can cause, then booked over a hundred people, including lawyers and journalists. It triggered outrage and protests by journalists’ bodies as well as the left and so-called secular lobbies.
But clearly, this stern action by the Tripura government did not deter the likes of Sakunia and Jha from publishing allegedly fake reports about the violence in Tripura.
What’s more, she allegedly tried to incite Muslims to attack Hindus.
Sakunia and Jha were, thus, doing more than just ‘reporting’ in Tripura if the allegations against them are true.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.