The Union Home Ministry today denied reports that it has directed the Assam government to act on a complaint against four high-profile journalists who covered protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill earlier this year. The reports, it maintained, amounted to being an "absolutely baseless and mischievous interpretation of facts".
The Legal Rights Observatory (LRO), a Maharashtra-based organisation, had accused the four journalists - Pratidin Time chief editor Nitumoni Saikia, Prag News chief editor Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, InsideNE editor Afrida Hussain and journalist-activist Manjit Mahanta - of "propagating militant ideology" during the agitation. The reports suggested that the Centre had asked the Assam government to take action on the basis of the complaint.
The Union Home Ministry, however, clarified that it had only "routinely" forwarded LRO head Vinay Joshi's complaint to the Assam government, without ordering an inquiry of any kind. "It is mischievous to suggest that the central government asked the government of Assam to initiate action against any editor or mediaperson in Assam. It reiterates that it is standard practice to forward every petition received to the ministry or state government concerned," the clarification added.
The BJP remains firm in its resolve to push through the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which had spurred extensive protests across the Northeast earlier this year. Addressing an election rally in Assam's Silchar recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the legislation - aimed at making it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries to obtain Indian citizenship - will be implemented after "proper consultations with all sections of society".
Although the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, it could not be introduced in the upper house. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who believes that the legislation is "unabashedly communal", has vowed to prevent it from being passed in the Rajya Sabha.