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“The UAPA Has Been Misused Rigorously”, Says Shyam Meera Singh, Journalist Booked for Reporting Communal Violence in Tripura

The Tripura police, last week, booked 102 social media users including several journalists, activists and lawyers under the harsh anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), for tweeting about and reporting the recent communal violence in the state.


One of them was journalist Shyam Meera Singh who was booked under the UAPA for merely tweeting “Tripura is burning.”

Following the communal violence in Bangladesh that broke out during the Durgapuja in mid-October, in which several pandals and Hindu temples were vandalised, resulting in the death of at least seven people, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an affiliate of the ruling Bharatiya Janatha Party’s (BJP) Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), decided to organise a rally in Tripura, in protest of the incident. It was during this rally on October 26 that several mosques and shops were vandalised, Singh told Silverscreen India.

Singh pointed out that it was only after the tweets and social media posts that the country began to pay attention to violence in the state. Soon after Singh and a few others tweeted verified videos and visuals of the violence in the state, #TripuraIsBurning began trending on Twitter. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also tweeted with the tag.

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Singh said he received an email from Twitter on Monday night. In the email, the social networking giant said that it had received a request from the Tripura Police Crime Branch to take action against his tweet, as it was in violation of India’s Information Technology Act.

The email further mentioned that Twitter has “not taken any action on the reported content at this time.”

As per the FIR registered against Singh and accessed by Silverscreen India, the police accused the 102 social media posts of using “fabricated statements/commentary for promoting enemity between religious groups/communities”. It also alleged that the posts caused a ‘breach of public peace’ with an intent to ’cause harm to the reputation of the state police and government in presence of a Criminal Conspiracy’.

Also booked under the UAPA were two lawyers, Ansar and Mukesh, who are part of a four-member team that released a report titled ‘Humanity under attack in Tripura; #Muslim lives matter’, highlighting the violence that occurred in the state. The report highlighted that at least 12 mosques, nine shops and three houses belonging to Muslim families in the state were vandalised, The Wire reported. 


Singh, along with Mukesh recently moved the Supreme Court, seeking that the FIR against them be quashed. On Thursday, the court agreed to hear their pleas. 

Regarding the stringent UAPA lodged against him that gives the police to liberty to arrest him anytime and under which it is very difficult to get bail, Singh said, “This law has been misused rigorously under the BJP regime but I am not afraid, why should I be afraid when I have done no wrong.”

“If the judiciary system thinks what I have done is wrong, let them tell me which jail to go, I will go there myself. I am not afraid of their jails. The government should be afraid, they are the ones who are doing wrong, the official who registered the FIR should be afraid, the ones who vandalised and burned the Muslims’ homes and mosques and the ones who took out the rally should be afraid,” he said.

According to Singh, the VHP rally in Tripura is not a “stand-alone” incident. He referred to several rallies across the country including the one in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar where slogans like “Mulle kaate jayenge, ram ram chillayenge” were raised.

He added that one must focus on how the state government acts on such incidents. While in Bangladesh incident, the government took immediate cognisance and booked over 400 Muslims responsible for the violence despite being a Muslim majority country, in Tripura, where the BJP rules, not a single state minister commented on the incident and even if they do it is only in favour of the Hindus, Singh said.

The Editors Guild of India has meanwhile issued a statement expressing “deep shock” on the Tripura Police’s action in the case and said that this is an “attempt by the state government to deflect attention away from its own failure to control majoritarian violence, as well as to take action against the perpetrators.”


“This is an extremely disturbing trend, where such a harsh law, where in the process of investigation and bail applications are extremely rigorous and overbearing, is being used for merely reporting on and protesting against communal violence,” the statement read.

Claiming that the governments cannot use stringent laws like UAPA to suppress reporting on such incidents and attack press freedom, the Guild demanded the state government to conduct an “objective and fair” investigation into the circumstances of the riots instead of penalising journalists and civil society activists.

The Press Club of India in a statement on Wednesday, also demanded that the Supreme Court take action against the recent “communal cauldron ignited” in Tripura while expressing shock over the “arm-twisting, beating up and arresting” of media persons by the state government.