On Thursday (October 28), a Delhi Court summoned Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami after Islamist group Popular Front of India (PFI) filed a defamation suit against him and fellow Editor Ananya Verma. PFI had accused the duo of ‘false reporting’ and tarnishing its image.
It had also attached the News Broadcast standards Association (NBSA) as one of the respondents in the matter. As per reports, the outfit sought ₹1 lakh in damages and a ‘mandatory injunction’ on Republic TV against reporting anything defamatory about PFI. The order for the summons was issued by Additional Civil Judge Sheetal Chaudhary Pradhan. The matter has been adjourned until January 3 next year.
The defamation suit pertained to the coverage of the Darrang incident in Assam. PFI had accused Republic TV of publishing an article titled, “Darrang Firing: 2 arrested with PFI links, accused of mobilizing crowds for protest”, which was published on the website of Republic TV. The Islamist outfit had also alleged that the news channel aired another programme titled, “Assam violence probe: Two PFI men arrested” on the live telecast.
The Popular Front of India claimed that the two people arrested in the Darrang violence, namely, Md Asmat Ali and Md Chand Mamud were not connected to the outfit. In its defamation suit, it alleged, “In the said news article/ telecast, the defendants have made false and frivolous accusations against the plaintiff with the intent to provoke people and to cause prejudice to the name, image and goodwill of the plaintiff… The defendants have deliberately made such libellous, defamatory and derogatory allegations with the motive to defame and malign the image of the plaintiff.”
PFI claimed that Republic TV published the news without proper verification and enquiry and that its coverage was a blot on freedom of speech and expression. It had cited the statement of Darrang SP who supposedly claimed that the two accused were panchayat members and not that of PFI. The radical Islamist outfit, represented by one Shakeel Abbas, added that it had sent a legal notice to Republic TV on September 30 seeking an unconditional apology but in vain. It added that the channel had sent a ‘false and evasive reply’ in return.
Violence in Darrang district in Assam, encroachers resist eviction drive
On September 23, an eviction drive conducted by the administration in Darrang district in Assam had turned violent after encroachers of the land attacked security forces. While 9 policemen were injured in the attack by the mob of illegal encroachers, 2 attackers were killed in retaliatory police firing.
The incident took place at the Dholpur in the Garukhuti area near the Sipajhar town in Darrang district in Assam, where the Himanta Biswa Sarma government is conducting an eviction drive of illegal settlers on land belonging to the government or other organisations like temples. When the eviction party reached the place inhabited by Bengali-speaking Muslims on Thursday, hundreds of people clashed with the police, attacking them with stones, machetes, pointed bamboo sticks, etc.