If there is one thing the Mamata Banerjee government excels at, it is crawling the social media and keeping a vigilant eye for all things that could possibly show her government in bad light, and then instead of weeding out the cause, just ban it.
It has been a month since West Bengal government has banned ABN News Network, the only Nepali language satellite channel in India, alleging that telecasting footage of Darjeeling unrest fanned hatred in the hills. The news referred to the 21st July pro-Gorkhaland khukhri-rally. Khukhri is a traditional Nepali knife and one of the symbols used by protestors demanding a separate state since early this June.
The order served by district magistrate of Jalpaiguri, Rachna Bhagat said that the channel’s news were promoting enmity between communities, especially after being shared on the social media. The complaints that led to banning of the channel reportedly focused on the ‘objectionable comments’ left by users on the Facebook page of the channel.
Representatives of the news channel claim that they had even deleted many comments, and that they should not be held responsible for what the public is saying. However, this failed to convince the administration and the channel remains off air.
This control on internet and media is unfortunately not new for the Mamata government. Many pro-Gorkhaland Facebook pages have reportedly been banned and the news from the hills are actively suppressed, critics claim.
This high-handed behaviour of the government is not limited only to the ongoing Gorkhaland protests. Earlier, the state police had preferred arresting a minor for an allegedly provocative post on Facebook to taking action against rioters inuldge in arson. Last year, an FIR was filed against Zee News reporters for covering Dhulagarh riots.
Things were taken to absurd level last month when a photograph of someone praying in a temple posted on Twitter was allegedly seen as a threat to peace in Bengal.
Unfortunately, these illiberal developments don’t cause a huge hue and cry nationwide, especially among the ‘liberal’ media and chatterati, as Mamata Banerjee is seen as a ‘secular’ challenger to Narendra Modi.