Manipur police have registered an FIR against a fact-finding team of the Editors Guild of India (EGI) and the organisation’s president over a report on the conflict in the northeastern state.
Chief minister and BJP leader Biren Singh, under fire for the way he has handled the crisis, held a media conference to issue an unvarnished warning.
“I also am giving a warning to the Editors Guild members: if you want to do something, please come to the spot, please do visit there, see the ground reality, meet the representatives of all communities, all victims and then you publish what you have found. Otherwise, meeting some people, sections of the people and coming to a conclusion, is disservice -- that is highly condemnable. That is why the state government has filed an FIR against the members of the Editors Guild who are trying to create more clashes in the state of Manipur...,” Biren Singh said in Imphal.
The BJP government’s grouse appeared to be aimed at the conclusion of the Guild’s report that said “there are clear indications that the leadership of the state became partisan during the conflict”.
The Guild’s 24-page findings were released on Saturday evening. The fact-finding team was sent to Manipur to examine the media reportage in the state from August 7 to 10.
One of the first complainants said the Guild’s report had erroneously identified a picture of a forest office that was on fire as a Kuki home. “On this account only, it is obvious that the report is false, fabricated, and paid news sponsored by Kuki militants...,” the complainant claimed.
The Guild had acknowledged the mistake on Sunday, corrected it and expressed regret. “There was an error in a photo caption in the report released on September 2. The same is being rectified and the updated report will be uploaded on the link shortly. We regret the error that crept in at the photo editing stage,” the Guild had posted on X (formerly Twitter).
By Monday evening, at least two complaints had been lodged against the Guild report — all by private individuals.
The first FIR was registered by Imphal police station on Sunday against Seema Guha, Sanjay Kapoor and Bharat Bhushan and EGI president Seema Mustafa.
Based in New Delhi, the Guild was founded in 1978 to protect press freedom and raise the standard of the editorial leadership of newspapers and magazines.
The first FIR is based on a 12-page complaint filed by Ngangom Sarat Singh who has described the report as “ false, fabricated and sponsored”.
Ngangom Sarat Singh is a resident of Sagolband in Imphal West district and has identified himself as a social worker striving for peace in the strife-torn state. His complaint referred to the caption mistake and he claimed that another false statement about a deposition had been made in the report.
According to the FIR, all four have been booked under multiple IPC sections, including promoting enmity between different groups, using as true such declaration knowing it to be false, injuring or defiling a place of worship with the intent to insult the religion of any class, uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person, or statements conducing to public mischief which makes publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause fear or alarm to the public, statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes, and defamation with criminal conspiracy.
The conflict that erupted on May 3 has so far claimed at least 174 lives and displaced 67,000 people from both the majority Meitei and the Kuki communities.
In the afternoon, the chief minister’s secretariat issued a media release stating “that the government and the people condemn the report in the strongest term”.
“Who constituted them (the Guild’s fact-finding team)?... It is self-styled and has nothing to do with this present crisis in the state of Manipur,” chief minister Singh said at the media conference.
He described the Guild’s team as “anti-establishment”, claiming the members visited the state to spread communal venom to further fuel the crisis. They should have first sought proof and evidence, the chief minister said, adding that “both communities are victims and should be treated and consoled equally”.