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Scribe held for rebel links

Kokrajhar, Sept. 3: A Kokrajhar-based journalist of a private television channel has been arrested for allegedly inciting militants of the Songbijit faction of the NDFB into violence.

Jaikhlong Brahma was arrested after being summoned to Kokrajhar police station on the pretext of “some important work” last evening. This evening, he was remanded in police custody for five days.

Brahma has been charged (case number 367/14) under Sections 120(B)/121/121(a)/109 of the IPC read with Sections 10/13(b)/18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008.

Brahma’s wife Chitra Brahma said her husband left home after the police called him around 6.30pm. “Around 10pm, I came to know that he had been arrested and was in Kokrajhar police station,” she said. The police raided Brahma’s place around 11pm and seized his laptop and CPU.

Kokrajhar superintendent of police Sunil Kumar said Brahma was arrested for allegedly voluntarily inciting the banned NDFB (S) to commit violence over the past few months. He said the police had evidence of Brahma’s links with the militant outfit.

Claiming he was innocent, Brahma asked: “Is it a crime to talk to rebel groups for news purposes?” He said he had been called at the police station for “personal discussion” but was later told that he was under arrest.

Another Kokrajhar-based correspondent of another private channel, Rinoy Basumatary, is also under the scanner for allegedly having links with the NDFB (S).

A senior police officer said on the condition of anonymity that they had orders from senior officials to act against the journalists.

Assam inspector-general of police (law and order) S.N. Singh had alleged on June 18 this year that some members of Kokrajhar Press Club had links with NDFB (S) and were instigating the outfit.

The allegation came soon after the media in Kokrajhar covered the outfit’s display of weapon strength in a threat to strike back just after its cadre was killed in an encounter. Assam police put pressure on the media to show them the spot where the NDFB (S) had displayed its weapons.

On August 20, journalists in Kokrajhar covered the news of murder of school student Priya Basumatary and the open display of arms by the outfit at Dwimuguri village under Runikhata police station in Chirang district. The police came under criticism for taking 40 hours to recover her body while the media covered the incidents sooner. The murder and the weapons display had taken place just a few hours after five of cadres of the outfit were killed in an encounter. The police then brought reporters who had covered the news under scanner. They said they zeroed in on Brahma and brought Basumatary under the scanner on the basis of their phone calls and other evidences.

Various organisations have condemned Brahma’s arrest and the harassment of media by the police and have demanded his immediate release. The Kokrajhar Press Club today held an emergent meeting. Its members later protested by tying black cloth around their mouth for two hours. The Press Club will stage a two-hour sit-in at Pragati Bhawan in Kokrajhar town to protest against Brahma’s arrest and demand his release. The Press Club expressed serious concern on police intercession on the media’s work in Kokrajhar. It also expressed apprehension over the constant pressure on and harassment of media instead of the government and police taking pragmatic steps against the militant group.