Two women journalists detained by the Tripura police for reporting about the recent communal violence in the state have been granted bail by a local court on Monday. Both the journalists Sammridhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha have been granted bail by the CJM court in the Gomati district. They were detained in Assam on Sunday after a case was filed against them by the Tripura police.
The Editors Guild of India had denounced police action against the journalists and demanded their immediate release and “restoration of their freedom to travel”.
The two women journalists are associated with HW News Network. The women journalists were detained in Assam’s Karimganj on Sunday and were brought to Tripura on transit remand for production before the magistrate’s court in Udaipur, around 50 km from state capital Agartala.
The Tripura police in a statement said that the case involved a tweet by Samriddhi Sakunia, who visited a half-burnt prayer hall at a private house where claims were made of a Quran being burnt. A press release issued by the office of Tripura police chief VS Yadav claimed that the posts by Ms Sakunia were not true and promoted a sense of hatred between communities.
The police said they found no religious document was burnt and the journalists were asked to come to Agartala for questioning. They were detained after they were found to have left the state.
Tripura police suspect that the videos uploaded by them are doctored. In a tweet on November 11, Sakunia had written, “#Tripuraviolence Darga Bazaar: On 19th October at around 2:30 am, some unidentified people burnt down the mosque in Darga Bazaar area. People in the neighborhood are very upset with the fact that now they don’t have any place nearby to go and pray. There’s no other masjid nearby.”
The two women journalists were detained by the police while on their way to the airport. After three-and-half hours at the police station, the escort team from Tripura came. “We asked them to wait, saying our lawyer is on way. But they loudly said, ‘no one is coming’. They also did not show us a copy of the order,” the journalists said.
The women journalists accused the police of “intimidating” them on Sunday morning. They said they were not allowed to leave the hotel and move to Agartala.
In an official statement, the HW News Network – where the women work – said the detention took place “despite the police allowing them to leave the hotel and giving them a week’s time to record a statement… This is sheer harassment and targetting of the press on part of Tripura police”.