The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) Tripura unit’s mouthpiece Daily Deshar Katha, a 40-year-old vernacular Daily, has shut shop through an order passed by the West Tripura District Magistrate (DM) Dr Sandeep Mahatme on grounds of “mismatching” of its editor and printers details declared in the printers line of the newspaper right at the bottom and in the Registrar for the Newspapers of India (RNI) website. However, the Marxists are crying foul and have charged the Bidhan Deb-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government with “political vendetta” and have smelt the BJP hand in the entire episode.
The State Government has said it has nothing to do with the closure order. The West Tripura DM Mahatme passed an order on Monday directing that the Bengali Daily be closed down alleging “discrepancies in the changeover of the management”.
The newspaper’s founder-editor Gautam Das, also CPI-M spokesperson, said on Tuesday, “The BJP is behind the closure order. DM West Tripura Sandeep Mahatme passed the order to close down the paper despite the fact that Desher Katha placed before him revised registration of certificate issued by the RNI.”
Das further added, “Yes, it is totally politically motivated. Before passing the order State BJP secretary Rajib Bhattacharjee was present in the chamber of the DM at 9.20 pm on Monday and he had a long meeting, soon after that at 11 pm, he (DM) passed the illegal order.”
Das remarked that since the BJP-IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura) Government came to power on March 3 last, massive attacks have been unleashed on Left leaders and cadres and the paper was not allowed to be circulated and Government advertisement was “curtailed”.
Terming Monday’s action as a “Black Day” for the Indian media, Das said that even during Emergency in 1975-77, no newspaper was “forcibly” closed down. According to Das, the newspaper was originally owned by the CPI-M and in 2012, the ownership was handed over to a registered society. However, last month it was transferred to a newly formed trust and all procedures followed “to the t” and everything was conveyed to the Registrar of Newspapers through the DM.
He also alleged that the DM-cum-Collector, Sandeep Mahatme, after conducting four hearings between September 12 and October 1 last, suddenly passed an order “out of the blue” on Monday night to suspend publication of the newspaper which began publication in 1978.
Das said the management of the newspaper would soon seek justice from the appropriate forum. He said over 200 journalists and non-journalists would now become jobless. Meanwhile, the BJP State general secretary Rajib Bhattacharjee said that the saffron party had nothing to do with the closure order of the newspaper. “Daily Desher Katha was being published illegally and someone had filed a case on the basis of which hearings were going on and Monday night the order was passed to stop publication. I deny the allegations that BJP has a hand in the closure order,” said Bhattacharjee.
Meanwhile, the CPI-M politburo condemned the closure order and said: “This is a brazen attack on the freedom of the Press. It is a sad day that (the Daily) has stopped publication on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti. The CPI (M) appeals to all democratic sections of the people to protest against this serious attack on the fundamental rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution.”