DD, AIR ‘ban’ Tripura CM’s I-Day speech, CPI (M) calls it ‘autocratic’ move
Agartala, August 16: A major controversy has erupted in the northeastern state of Tripura over the Independence Day speech of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. Sarkar and his party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)), have alleged that the Prasar Bharati, India's largest public broadcasting agency, refused to broadcast the CM's speech on the Doordarshan (DD) and the All India Radio (AIR).
Both the DD and the AIR are run by the Prasar Bharati. Every year, as a custom, the DD and the AIR broadcast the speeches of all the CMs of the country in their respective states during the Independence Day.
However, this time, the Prasar Bharati allegedly did not broadcast Sarkar's speech after he refused to "reshape" his speech recorded on August 12. Sarkar has termed the move as an "undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant step". However, the Prasar Bharati is yet to issue any statement in this regard.
A Tripura government press statement alleged that the DD and the AIR had recorded Sarkar's speech on August 12.
On August 14, the CM's office was informed through a letter that his speech would not be broadcast unless he "reshaped it".
The letter purportedly said, "The message of the CM was closely examined by the competent authority. In view of the sanctity of the occasion, the broadcast code and responsibility of the public broadcaster it is not possible to telecast it in the present format."
"However, the DD/Prasar Bharati will be happy if the CM agrees to reshape the content making it suitable to the solemnity of the occasion and sentiment of the people," it purportedly said.
The CM's office statement claimed, "The CM clearly stated that he would not change a single word and described it as unprecedented, undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant step."
Sarkar's speech was supposed to be broadcast on August 15 by the DD and the AIR in Tripura.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the DD was "not the private property" of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "instructing his cronies to black out voices" of the opposition, including that of an elected CM.
In a statement, the CPI-M Politburo said it "strongly condemns the refusal by the DD and the AIR to broadcast the customary Independence Day address of Sarkar".
"The DD and the AIR had recorded his speech for the occasion. However, they subsequently informed him that the speech cannot be carried as it is and asked him to 'reshape' it," it said.
The party demanded action against those responsible for "prohibiting" the broadcast.
"This is a gross infringement on the right of a CM to address the people of his state on the Independence Day. This act is reminiscent of the Emergency days and goes beyond as it seeks to gag the elected CM of a state. The central government is trampling upon the autonomy of the DD/AIR and the Prasar Bharati by such acts of censorship," the statement said.
"Doordarshan Refuses to Broadcast Tripura CM Manik Sarkar's Speech. Is this the Cooperative Federalism that PM Modi Talks About? Shame!" the CPI (M)'s official Twitter handle said.
Tagging the tweet, Yechury hit out at the central government saying the channel's alleged refusal to air Sarkar's speech was "illegal".
"PM can pay homilies to cooperative federalism while instructing his cronies to black out voices of the Opposition, including an elected CM.
"If this isn't authoritarianism & undeclared Emergency, what is? This will be fought back by the CPM, people of Tripura and all our citizens," the Marxist leader tweeted.
The controversy, which has already turned political, has come at a time when both the BJP and the CPI (M) are looking to win the upcoming Assembly elections, scheduled early next year. The CPI (M) has a strong hold over the state. However, the BJP is aiming to win its maiden Assembly elections in Tripura next year.