There were alleged sporadic incidents reported from the State of Tripura between October 20 and October 26. It appears that the alleged incident occurred due to misinformation and disinformation published on various social media platforms. However, the local media acted positively to check the spread of fake news and rumours by publishing the actual ground report and situation and dismantling the misinformation and disinformation that were discriminatory and full of hatred.
Between October 20 and October 26, the Tripura Police reiterated that fake news was circulated with pictures and videos that were a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Tripura Police stated that some Anti-National and mischievous elements on Twitter and Facebook spread fake news with videos and photos that resulted in alleged sporadic incidents in some parts of the State.
It was incumbent on the stakeholders such as Journalists, lawyers etc. to assist the State Police whilst restricting the spread of misinformation and disinformation, on the contrary, a few Independent Journalists, lawyers, activists etc. visited Tripura on a field mission and actually actively participated in spreading misinformation and disinformation, that was far away from the actual ground report, hiding behind the Freedom Of Speech and Expression.
Context is of great importance when assessing whether particular statements are likely to incite discrimination, hostility or violence against the target group. It may have a direct bearing on both intent and/or causation. Very clearly that statements made by some Independent Journalists made statements that were primarily based on misinformation and disinformation and were likely to incite discrimination, hostility and violence. They continued to spread disinformation even though the State Police reiterated that no alleged incident occurred on religious lines. The malicious Intention of a few Independent Journalists was to spread hatred, divide the people into religious lines in the State of Tripura and create dissatisfaction towards the Government.
Since there were journalists and few lawyers involved, their position and status in the society is a matter of consideration, specifically their organisation's standing in the context of the audience to whom the speech and expression were directed, to determine hate speech and if the State Authorities could have imposed reasonable restrictions. The State Police issued several advisories to all stakeholders; however, these advisories were undermined, and a few lawyers went to such an extent that they managed to visit the incident sites, for a fact-finding mission, without the permission of the State Police. This speaks volumes of their malice.
In the entire factual matrix that happened between October 20 and October 26, a triangular relationship was certainly in place between the object and subject of the speech act and the audience. This is enough to establish the intent with advocacy and incitement. It can be safely said that the news items circulated were not merely an act of Negligence and recklessness.
Tripura Police in Action
On November 14, Arindam Nath, IG (Law and Order), Tripura Police, informed that they had detained two HW News journalists Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha, on November 13. They were detained based on multiple complaints filed against them for publishing and broadcasting false and fabricated news for disrupting communal harmony. The complaint was filed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s leader Kanchan Das.
Assam Police detained the duo in district Karimganj while they were going to Guwahati. According to a report, Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha were on their way to Agartala. However, to skip security checks, they changed their route and travelled towards Assam. When Tripura Police came to know about the change in route, they informed Assam Police, after which they were detained.
Tripura Police said that, “Taking a cue from the recent violence in Amravati and other parts of Maharastra as a repercussion, it has become clear that some vested interest is trying to flare up the communal incident in Tripura.”
As per the FIR copy, a case under Sections 120(B), 152(A) and 504 of the Indian Penal Code have been registered at Fatikroy Police Station. In his complaint, Kanchan Das said that both had visited Paul Bazar under Fatikroy Police Station and visited a few houses where Muslims lived. He alleged that the journalists “delivered instigating speech against Hindus and Tripura Government” He further added that Samriddhi Sakunia falsely imparted VHP and Bajrang Dal for allegedly damaging the mosque on Paul Bazar. He said their actions were part of a criminal conspiracy and to destroy communal harmony in the region. The quick action by Tripura Police controlled the situation going out of hand.
The extent of the misinformation and disinformation was far-reaching; it spread to the entire country's large public through electronic media resulting in sporadic violence in the State of Maharashtra.
Right from the beginning, there was a reasonable probability that the speech that included (advocacy and incitement) would succeed in inciting actual action against the target group, and the causation was direct.
In the light of the above, the Tripura Police acted promptly and positively by restricting the spread of misinformation and disinformation. In fact, Tripura Police and Central Agency such as NIA must investigate the entire conspiracy (Toolkit) that led to disturbance in the two States, which was directed on religious line to spread hate.