Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar on Wednesday condemned the censorship of his Independence Day speech by national broadcaster Prasar Bharati and termed it an “undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant step”.
The opposition, Congress has also slammed the move to censor the Chief Minister’s speech, while the BJP, which is eyeing to grab power in Tripura in the next assembly elections, has supported Prasar Bharati’s move.
An official statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said that All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan Kendra (DDK), Agartala, recorded Sarkar’s speech on August 12 to broadcast and telecast it on August 15.
“On August 14 evening Assistant Director of Programmes (Policy) Sanjiv Dosajh of AIR, New Delhi, and Prasar Bharati’s Head of Office (New Delhi) U.K. Sahoo in separate communications to the Chief Minister’s Office said that with the existing contents the speech could not be telecast and broadcast by AIR and DDK, Agartala,” the statement said.
“The AIR and Prasar Bharati officials had suggested reshaping the content of the Chief Minister’s speech making it suitable to the solemnity of the occasion and sentiments of the people of India at large. The Chief Minister refused to make any change of his speech,” the statement added.
Sarkar, a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member who has been the Chief Minister of Tripura for 19 years, has in previous years delivered the Independence Day speeches through the AIR and DDK, Agartala.
“The Left Front leaders today (Wednesday) held a meeting and vehemently criticised the decision of the Prasar Bharati,” CPI-M state secretary Bijan Dhar told the media.
He said the step is a blatant proof of how the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)-run BJP government at the Centre is controlling all the apex constitutional bodies of the country.
“This step has insulted the people of Tripura,” said Dhar, a CPI-M central committee member.
The Left Front has urged the people to organise protest rallies against Prasar Bharati’s “most undemocratic and authoritarian decision”.
Tripura Congress Vice President Tapas Dey said “those who opposed the Emergency in 1975 are trying to reimpose it now”.
“This is a sign of intolerance and dictatorial. When Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat he had criticised the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government like anything, now his government at the Centre is curbing the voice of an elected Chief Minister of another state,” Dey told reporters.
BJP Tripura unit spokesman Mrinal Kanti Deb said the Chief Minister has “no sense” of what should be spoken when and where.
“On a national day like Independence Day, Chief Minister’s speech should be concentrated on national integration, national security, peace and development of the country. In the national day speech he should not criticise the central government,” Deb said.
CPI-M politburo in New Delhi on Tuesday in a statement had termed the step of Prasar Bharati as a gross infringement on the right of a Chief Minister to address the people of his state on Independence Day.
It said: “This act is reminiscent of the Emergency days and goes beyond as it seeks to gag the elected Chief Minister of a state. The central government is trampling upon the autonomy of Doordarshan, AIR and Prasar Bharati by such acts of censorship.”
The CPI-M demanded action against those responsible for prohibiting the broadcast. It asked the Narendra Modi government to stop treating the Prasar Bharati “as a department of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting”.