The Home Ministry on Friday sought to allay apprehension that it had asked an inquiry to be conducted and denied that it had called for any action against four Assam based editors and writers.
Earlier, The Indian Express and The Wire had reported that an Under Secretary in the North East Division in MHA, Sanjeev Kumar, had forwarded a complaint against the four and sought action against them “ for their role in spreading militant ideologies”.
The fact that all four editors and writers had opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill and supported widespread protests against it in Assam may not be incidental though the Ministry tried to brush it away as a routine matter.
In a statement MHA claimed on Friday that it had received a complaint from one Vinay Joshi from Ratnagiri (Maharashtra) against the Assam editors on February 14 this year. On April 16 the complaint was forwarded to the Assam Government as a matter of routine.
“No enquiry of any kind has been ordered by the Ministry. No report has been called from the Government of Assam in the matter…it is mischievous to suggest that the Central Government had asked the Government of Assam to initiate action against any Editor or media person in Assam,” the statement went on to say.
However, the communication sent by the MHA was clearly not a routine communication. Because it sought an investigation into the role of ‘ suspicious media outlets’, their owners, their financial transactions, sources of income, possible flow of funds from foreign sources etc.
The communication also exhorted the Assam Government to take appropriate action against them for their role in spreading militant ideologies and actively assisting fresh recruitment of Assam youth in banned militant groups ‘ by running loud media propaganda’ (sic).
The communication dated April 16 specifically named Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, Manjit Mahanta, Nitumoni Saikia and Afrida Hussain. All of them have been vocal against the Citizenship Bill and most of them have been critical of BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s attempts to polarise Assamese society on religious lines.
Mahanta was charged with sedition in January along with Hiren Gohain, a respected writer and academic, and activist Nikhil Gogoi, for opposing the Bill at a rally. The MHA’s letter identifies him as being the editor of a newspaper which Mahanta had quit 10 years ago.
MHA’s letter raises inconvenient questions.