The Canada-based Punjabi media fraternity has strongly condemned the recent arrests of towering Indian scholars and the criminal case filed against a female photojournalist in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

On April 14, well known Indian authors and activists Anand Teltumbde and Gauram Navlakha were forced to surrender under motivated charges filed against them to suppress the voices of dissent.

Through their writings, the two men have been raising issues of state violence and repression of minorities and marginalized communities in the name of security and development.

Both men are published authors. They are among many other scholars and human rights defenders being incarcerated in Indian jails under a right wing Hindu nationalist regime.

Not only has the Indian government refused to release political prisoners in the light of COVID 19, it has forced Teltumbde and Navlakha to surrender. The calls for the release of all prisoners on humanitarian grounds under such difficult circumstances have been completely overlooked by the Indian establishment.

Over the weekend, the Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia (PPCBC) issued a statement condemning the unwanted arrests of Teltumbe and Navlakha and sought their immediate release.

Earlier, the club had denounced the arrest of TV journalist Bhupinder Singh Sajjan by the Punjab police, and the filing of a criminal case against senior journalist Sidharth Vardarajan by the police in Uttar Pradesh. Both men have received threats from the right wing activists in the past. The police actions seem to be politically motivated, as these journalist have been questioning the people in power.

On Monday, the club came out with another statement against the slapping of charges against a Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Masrat Zahra has been accused of spreading “anti-national” propaganda on social media. Zahra is a freelance journalist who has been contributing to the Washington Post, TRT World, Al Jazeera, The New Humanitarian and The Caravan.

Kashmir remains under lockdown since August 5. The journalists in that region are already finding it difficult to work freely and fearlessly. The PPCBC has been asking for the restoration of press freedom in the region since then, and has repeatedly expressed its concerns over challenges being faced by Kashmiri journalists.

According to the club, these developments reflect very poorly on a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy.

In the meantime, the club has also asked for an inquiry into the recent media reports about an Indian journalist being used by Indian intelligence to influence Canadian politicians. An unidentified journalist, whose wife and son are Canadian citizens, had applied for Permanent Residency in Canada. His application was rejected on the basis of his relationship with India’s secret agencies. The club wants the Canadian government to reveal his identity and look into the depth of the whole issue to establish the extent to which Indian moles have penetrated into media circles to prevent foreign interference.


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