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SFI Hooliganism Against Asianet News Offices

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Kochi (VSK). CPM parivar is again in violence spree as always. On March 3, about 30 workers of Students Federation of India (SFI), student wing of CPM, stormed into the Asianet News offices in Kochi. They were shouting “their” slogans against Asianet News. They disrupted the office activities. They also put up a banner which reads “This establishment is an insult to civilised Kerala”. In a report, Asianet News described the attack as a “brazen act of hooliganism”.

The latest provocation for SFI’s hooliganism was the alleged “faked” interview, Asianet aired, of a minor girl last year in connection with a news report on the drug mafia. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that the police was investigating this complaint regarding “fake interview”. CPM has been campaigning against Asianet since the channel started airing debates and news which did not go well with their (CPM’s) taste. The following are the Asianet’s Associate Editor Vinu V. John’s remarks which provoked CPM.

Vinu had, hosting a channel discussion, said;’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’/: “Elamaram Kareem’s vehicle should have been attacked. And the people in it whether it was his family, should be brought out of the vehicle. His vehicle’s tyre should have been punctured. Just like Yasir (a victim of hartal day violence) was treated, Elamaram Kareem (national general secretary of CITU, trade union wing of CPM) should have been hit on his face. Then he will understand whether it was equal to scratching or pinching.”

Vinu was referring to Kareem’s statement ridiculing the protests against the hartal supporters’ atrocities against the aforementioned Yasir during the national hartal, called for by the join forum of various trade unions, including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC. Hartal was carried out on March 28 and 29, 2022. Kareem stated that the hartal is in the interests of the people. He said, “We had given the strike call two months ago…. Now they say someone was scratched and pinched.”

CPM’s enmity towards Asianet aggravated by this episode. Going back to the history of Asianet, from the very beginning Hindu and nationalist forces had been complaining that Asianet news and programmes had been in support of Left forces and Congress and dead against RSS, BJP and Hindutva. And, this opposition was, to a great extent, true too. But, since the last few years Asianet has been undergoing sea changes; naturally the treatment towards Hindu and nationalist forces have changed as well, thanks to the changes took place at the top echelons of the Malayalam channel.

The same time, Asianet has been in the lead role in exposing the hypocrisy of CPM and Left forces. Gold smuggle, Light Mission scandal, allegations of money laundering against CM Pinarayi Vijayan, Swapana Suresh’s disclosures, allegations of blatant corruption charges against LDF ministers and leaders, CPM’s infights, and so son.

Observers believe that thus there are abundant reasons for enmity between CPM and Asianet. Now, Asianet reports, thirty SFI men were booked under IPC Sections 143 (Unlawful assembly), 147 (Rioting) and 149 (Offences against public tranquillity).

Reports suggest, the agitators had congregated on the road adjacent to Asianet offices, before the attack on and intrusion to the offices. Their action was akin to preventing the staff from doing their duties; they threatened the staff. They were led by the district president, district secretary, district treasurer and area secretary of SFI. These aspects are more than enough to substantiate that the attack was a carefully orchestrated one.

Asaient blames Police inaction in preventing the attack despite the attackers’ congregation on the road side. If the conspiracy angle is investigated the involvement of some leaders would be exposed. The channel demanded thorough inquiry into the attack.

Press Council of India and Kerala Union of Working Journalist have condemned the attack. Lot of protest marches took place throughout the state. Press Council said, such “strong arm tactics have no place in a democracy” and urged the Government of Kerala to look into the incident immediately.

But, these protests against the attack on the press freedom are very much selective. Because, Kerala streets were not fortunate enough to witness any protests like this after Janam TV crew members were attacked and manhandled in JNU campus on January 24, 2023. They were attacked when tension mounted in the campus in connection with the screening of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question”.

CPM central leadership does not react. State leadership would not condemn either.

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