Two Delhi-based women journalists arrested by Assam police on request from Tripura cops 

The journalists have accused the police of "Intimidation", FIR by right-wing follower unleashed police action

Tripura violence

“We have been detained at the Nilambazar police station, Karimganj, Assam. We were informed by the officer in-charge of Nilambazar PS that SP of Gomti District [in Tripura] gave the orders for our detention,” Journalist  Samriddhi K. Sakunia said in a video posted on social media on Sunday, after she was detained for the second time, with her colleague Swarna Jha. Both work for the HW News Network. They were in Assam after going to Tripura to gather news from the neighbourhoods affected in the recent communal riots. After a Hindutva group supporter filed an FIR, the women were hounded by police, first in Tripura, and then in Assam, for allegedly disrupting communal harmony.

First, the two Delhi-based journalists were surrounded, for hours, by local police personnel in the hotel at Dharmanagar area of Tripura, where they were staying during their reporting visit to the state. The two journalists had then been accused of various charges, including “criminal conspiracy”. Then on Sunday, they were detained in Assam, another BJP-governed state.

After much pressure from local journalists’ associations and lawyers, and being detained at the police station for over four to five hours, they were sent to a Shelter home at Nilambazar near the police station. Initially the Tripura police team was insisting on their detention/arrest without any woman official present. Citizens for Justice and Peace with its wide network of rights activists in the state assisted in legal aid for the duo. Late night a DYSP women lady officer arrived from Tripura and the two were then taken back to the neighbouring state.


Police were present when the two were out reporting, said Sakunia. Later she shared that police “collected transport details of both reporters, insisted on Aadhaar, ostensibly to provide “security”,” but when they tried to check out from the hotel, they were told FIR had been filed in the Fatikroy police station at Unakoti district in Tripura.



According to sources, the journalists’ families and lawyers have updated that a lady officer, at the rank of a DySP, arrived from Tripura late on Sunday night and arrested them. A second FIR had been filed under similar sections (120-B, 153-A and 504 IPC) Khakhrabund police station, case 22 of 21. They will be produced before a CJM court in north Tripura district.

They were in Assam, reportedly on their way back to Delhi, after they left Tripura having survived the ‘surprise’ visit from the police personnel, and were reportedly questioned. According to sources, they were taken to a “shelter Home” late on Sunday November 14 night, and then taken to Gomti district post midnight.



Swarna Jha had tweeted that the “Vishwa Hindu Parishad had registered the FIR” against her and Sakunia, under IPC sections 120 (B),153(A),504. And shared a copy of it. 



Their employers HW Newsnetwork also issued its official statement soon after. 



According to news reports, the two journalists were first named in a First Information Report (FIR) that was registered after a complaint was made by one Kanchan Das, who is said to be a Vishva Hindu Parishad supporter/member. The Tripura police swung into action, and Sammriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha took to social media to report the police presence in the hotel. The journalists have alleged that the cops came to their hotel early in the morning and “intimidated” them. They reiterated that they were in Tripura on a reporting assignment to cover the recent incidents of violence in the state. The aftermath is still being noted and reported.

Soon after, a second FIR was registered and they were first detained, and now, according to sources, have been arrested from Assam, by Tripura police. The journalists were reportedly on their way to Silchar but were detained by Assam police at Nilambazar Police Station in Karimganj district of Assam. 

While they were yet to publish the final report, the journalist had been sharing snippets from their field visits as many reporters now do. These social media posts often serve as ‘field notes’ and are a way for journalists also to share that they are on the ground reporting. In many cases, where telephone and internet services are disrupted such social media posts once uploaded are also a sign that the reporter has reached their place of stay, hotel or a ‘safe zone’ as it were. Just a few of the communication tools now being used the world over.

What does this massive official action on journalists mean?

The two women journalists have been accused of “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion” under Section 153-A and “being a part of criminal conspiracy” under Section 120 (B) of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). As journalists took to social media and broke the news themselves, Sakunia alleged they were not allowed to leave the hotel. However, according to some news portals the police team “only served a notice” to them, and asked them to “appear for questioning on November 21”.

According to an unnamed police officer who has been quoted by Firstpost, the police “went to meet the journalists who were staying in a hotel in Dharmanagar sub-division of Tripura’s north district. We took their permission and spoke with them for basic information. We served them a notice. They requested us to give some time so then they can appear with their lawyer. The permission was given. I believe they have already left.”

However the facts became public after Sakunia tweeted: “We were supposed to leave for the capital Agartala but have been not allowed to move despite full cooperation. There are around 16-17 police deployed outside our hotel.” 

Escalation of Tripura govt crackdown on those reporting or commenting on communal violence

The Tripura police action on the two women journalists is yet another escalation of its crackdown on those reporting or commenting  on the recent communal violence in the state. Recently, Twitter was told by the state police to suspend 68 profiles on the platform for spreading “distorted” contents on the communal clashes in the state. The accounts that the police have identified have been accused of posting “distorted or objectionable” content about the alleged Mosque vandalism in the state. Police told the media that these 68 handles have also been booked under stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA). These included accounts of Journalist Shyam Meera Singh and lawyers Ansar Indori (from the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation) and Mukesh (from the Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties), who have already  approached the Supreme Court to cancel the FIRs against them.

Lawyer reporting on Tripura violence under scanner too

Authors of a report of the Tripura violence where Muslim minorities were targeted, released by Lawyers For Democracy, a coalition of law practitioners, have also been slapped with charges under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). As per Tripura Police, Advocates Ansar Indori, secretary of the National Confederation of Human Rights and Mukesh, who works for the Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) were served notice because they shared posts on social media, which the police say led to promoting enmity among two religious groups as well as provoking the people of different religious communities to cause a breach of peace. Tripura Police have charged the lawyers under Indian Penal Code Sections 153-A and B (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc), 469 (forgery for purpose of harming information), 503 (criminal intimidation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke the breach of peace) and 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) and have also invoked the draconian UAPA.

Solidarity statements from the media fraternity.

The Network of Women in Media India (NWMI) has issued a detailed statement of solidarity with journalists Samriddhi K Sakunia and Swarna Jha. The NWMI “applauds their determination to report on the recent incidents of communal violence in the state despite intimidation and harassment.” The NWMI has demanded that the FIRs be immediately withdrawn. It views “this spate of legal actions as an attempt to intimidate and silence those who seek to uncover the truth about the communal violence in this state.” The NWMI has asked the Tripura government to “protect journalists doing their legitimate duty instead of making these naked attempts to browbeat and criminalise them.”



Senior journalists have also been speaking out in support of the two journalists who have now been arrested.



What is HW News Network? 

The HW News Network describes itself as a “Digital News Portal of Theo Connect Private Limited.” Their vision statement reads, “At HW, we believe in delivering Real, Honest and Unbiased news to our viewers and is a platform for all political ideologies and parties to present their opinions and point of view.” HW News Network is a privately owned and managed entity funded by its promoters, Sujit Nair heads the Editorial at HW News, Akhilesh Bhargava heads its business and financial news and Ganesh Jagtap is the HW News’s Managing Director.


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Tripura violence: Delhi-based lawyers booked under UAPA over social media posts

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Tripura: CJP writes to NCM over vandalisation of mosques and shops owned by Muslims



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