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Law

Tripura HC Takes Suo Motu Cognisance of Violence Reports, Asks Govt to File Reply

'There can be no reiteration that the state owes its responsibilities' in the maintenance of law and order and in 'providing citizens with the security to protect their life, livelihood as well as their properties,' the HC said.

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Agartala: Three days after violence was reported in Panisagar sub-division of Tripura’s North district, the Tripura high court directed the state government to file an affidavit within November 10 specifically delineating preventive measures it has taken and what its plan is when it comes to tackling efforts to stoke communal passion and perpetuate violence.

A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Subhashish Talapatra Friday admitted a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) based on press reports in national and local newspapers on the issue of the violence which occurred on October 26 in North Tripura district as well as instances of violence which allegedly occurred in the last few days at Unakoti and Sepahijala districts of the state.

“We direct the respondents to file further affidavits before this Court on or before 10th November, 2021 specifically dealing with preventive measures they had taken or what is their plan of scuttling the design of stoking communal passion or to perpetrate in the violence,” the court said.

Also read: Activists, Students Protest in Delhi Against BJP’s ‘Silence’ on Tripura Anti-Muslim Violence

“There can be no reiteration that the State owes its responsibilities insofar as maintenance of law and order as well as providing citizens with the security to protect their life, livelihood as well as their properties,” the high court added.

State’s submission

In his submission before the court, Advocate General Siddhartha Shankar Dey informed the court that on October 26, a protest rally was organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Panisagar Sub Division, North Tripura district. The rally was organised in protest against the vandalism of Durga Puja pandals in Bangladesh, he said. In view of this protest march necessary police arrangement was made by North Tripura District Police, Dey added.

Also read: Tripura: Mosque Vandalised, Shops and Houses Attacked During VHP Rally

The AG said allegations have been made regarding the destruction of Muslim houses and mosques.

“During the protest march some clash took place between both communities. Allegations and counter allegations have been made by both groups. Based on complaint lodged, two cases were registered with Panisagar Police Station. Allegations have been made in the FIR alleging burning of 03 shops and damaged of 03 houses belonging to the Muslim community. Allegations have been also made alleging damage to mosque. Allegations also have been made alleging theft of property and outraging modesty of women. Counter allegation made in the FIR include abusing the rally, threatening with dire consequence and attacking the peaceful march. Both cases are counter cases. Investigation of both cases is in progress.”

He said that a large gathering of Muslims had assembled at various places in Unakoti and North Tripura district. By active deployment and persuasion, people were dispersed. In order to maintain peace, restrictions under Section 144 Criminal procedure Code were imposed in the area.

The AG’s affidavit also said that many pictures and videos were circulated on social media which contributed to purported misinformation.

“Certain misinformation about the above incident was also spread by Twitter/Facebook handles. Prima facie it is seen that these pictures and videos do not pertain to above incident/any other incident of Tripura. Prima facie it was also seen that videos/pictures belonging to other incidents happened outside State/outside Country have been morphed and was being shown as relating to the present incident. These videos and pictures have potential to disturb the communal harmony in the State. To identify the miscreant responsible for circulating the false video and picture two cases were registered with West and Panisagar police station.”

On October 27, Tripura Police in a series of tweets had said that persons using fake social media IDs are spreading fake news on Tripura.

Police have claimed that during at protest rally in Panisagar in North Tripura, no mosque was burnt and the purported photographs were fake.

The AG also said that in order to maintain peace and to stop the spread of fake news, peace meetings have been organised in  Dharmanagar and Panisagar of North Tripura, Amtali of West Tripura, Kulubari and Laxman Dhepa of Sepahijala district.

As per the state government, five more cases were registered at Kakraban police station in Gomati district, Melaghar and Sepahijala police stations at Sepahijala district, Takarjala and East Agartala police stations in West Tripura since the violence in Bangladesh.

Two persons were detained in connection to these cases and notices were issued against two others.

‘Direct state to take urgent action’

The court also mentioned the formation of committees to foster peace at various locations where communal strife exists and called upon all political parties to fully participate in the peacemaking process.

Also read: Tripura: Clash Between Police, Right-Wing Groups Protesting Violence Against Minorities in Bangladesh

The Court has also noted that chief minister Biplab Deb, as reported in local press, has directed officials concerned to compute the damages that have occurred and to see that compensation as deemed appropriate is granted to them.

“We direct the state to take urgent action in this regard so that the livelihood of persons who have lost their source of income can be restored at the earliest,” the court said.

The high court also directed the state government to initiate appropriate action against all social media platforms in order to ensure that false, fictitious and or fabricated news articles or visual footages are not circulated.