By HENRY L. KHOJOL
Aizawl | March 14, 2018
All Mizoram working journalists on Tuesday staged state-wide sit-in-demonstration in all parts of the state under the aegis of Mizoram Journalist Association (MJA), an umbrella body of all journalists in Mizoram, seeking justice for journalists and protesting against the brutality and inhuman act of Assam police against Mizo journalists during the face-off with activists of Mizoram’s apex student body the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) over border tussle.
At least 8 Mizoram journalists including two women were apparently brutally attacked and indiscriminately thrashed and fired at by irate Assam police despite flaunting their press credentials and making verbal plea that they are journalists coming to the conflict zone to do ground report, while their counterpart Asssam’s were protected and saved . They had gone to Zophai paddy field near Bairabi town in Kolasib district on the Mizoram-Assam northwestern border where the standoff took place on 8 March and 10 March after students attempt to construct a resting shed.
In Aizawl, the sit-in-demonstration was held near Vanapa hall which was joined by a number of journalists and their sympathizers.
The protesting journalists carried several placards that reads “We demand justice for Mizo journalists,” “Assam police, you should educate yourself on the freedom of the press,” “We vehemently condemn the brutality of Assam police,” and “We demand termination of Hailakandi DC/DM Adil Khan,” among others.
They joined in one voice shouting slogan- “We condemn the brutality of Assam police.”
As a token of solidarity to the crestfallen journalists, Information and Public Relation (I&PR) minister Lal Thanzara visited the protest site and expressed regret for the brutality and atrocities meted out to the Mizo journalists, who were not part of the protest but to cover the border standoff.
Terming the incident unfortunate, Lal Thanzara blamed the policemen involved in the brutal attack and urged the Assam government to look into the matter.
MJA president Vanlalrema Vantawl also said that the attack on journalists was outright violation of freedom of the press and was anti-democracy.
He also strongly slammed the Assam police for resorting to lathi-charge and opening fire towards the students and journalists during the clash last week.
The demonstration was also held in all district headquarters across the state.
On March 8, three journalists- Zohmingmawia, News Editor, The Aizawl Post, also Secretary of MJA and R Lalnunmawia, News Editor, Duhlai (Kolasib district) and DDK stringer H. Vanlalnghaka were brutally assaulted by the Assam Police. When the journalists complained to the district administration, they expressed apology and assured safety.
It was with strong belief that they will not be attacked anymore after ‘safety assurance’ by Hailakandi district administration, five journalists then went to the spot on 10 March to do ground report. But opposite to their expectation, they have been brutally attacked and indiscriminately fire at like goons, despite showing their press credentials.
Embassy Lawbei, reporter of News-18 and Catherine C. Sangi, correspondent of All India Radio and H. Lalthuthlunga Zate aka H. Zate, a reporter of Manipur based ‘Manmasi Digest’ suffered critical injuries, while Joseph Lalnuntluanga, a reporter of Zonet TV, who lost his eyeglasses on being hit on forehead, and Malsawmdawngzela Hrahsel, a reporter of the largest circulated paper in Mizoram ‘Vanglaini’ also sustained injuries.
The incident came to light in national media only when Lawbei and Cangi stormed social media narrating their ordeal.
Lawbei said she was chased and brutally thrashed by the policemen despite showing her press ID card and repeatedly telling them she is journalist. Sangi also joined Lawbei’s chorus saying she repeatedly pleaded to spare her, but the irate policemen did not stop beating her.
The brutality of Assam police against journalists and students has drawn huge flak from many media houses and associations including press club of India, The Electronic Media Forum Assam (Emfa) and other Manipur based journalists association, expressing their shock over the ‘police atrocities.’
The MJA demanded the Assam government and other concerned authority to find out the policemen involved in the brutal attack and give them stringent punishment.
The umbrella association also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, DoNER minister Dr. Jitender Singh, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla and Press Council of India to intervene so that the culprits are given punishment.
Meanwhile, the union home ministry asked Assam and Mizoram government to hold talks between chief secretaries of the two states on 20 March in New Delhi to defuse border tension and restore normalcy in the region.