Vol. XLIII No. 08 February 24, 2019

Meanwhile in Tripura

Rahul Sinha

SFI Bookstall Vandalised and Closed Down

IN a fascist like diktat, the ICA department, government of Tripura, the organiser of the 37th Agartala Book Fair has ordered to close down the stall allotted in the fair to Chhatra Sangbad, the organ of SFI Tripura state committee. This unprecedented and gagging order was issued on February 19, on the fifth day of the book fair. This was preceded by two attacks on the stall by hooligans of RSS- BJP and Bajrang dal on February 16 and 17. The RSS affiliated goons vandalised the stall on the fake allegation that seditious books were being sold from the stall. They threatened the officials of the ICA department present in the fair that if the stall of SFI is not closed down immediately then the department will be responsible for the consequences. The book in question was a Bengali version of “Gujarat Files, an Anatomy of Cover up" by Rana Ayyub and an issue of Student's Struggle, the organ of SFI central executive committee.  After this threat, the organisers on a verbal order asked the SFI workers of the stall to close down the stall.  On 18th noon when the SFI workers went to open the stall, the police obstructed them and put a barricade in front of the stall. The organising committee of the fair did not provide any satisfactory reason for it.  On 19th,  the department  issued  an order signed  on February 18 that the stall shall be closed since there was an allegation against it and none from the stall turned up to respond. On 16th itself, the organisers had told verbally that no book or periodical which is against the government or any person can be sold from the stall. 

Such a fascist like step is unprecedented in the 36 year long journey of Agartala Book Fair which had earned the reputation of becoming a meeting ground of different ideas.

The SFI Tripura state committee has strongly protested against this undemocratic step. In a press conference on February 19, the SFI leaders said, no seditious book was being sold from the stall. The allegations are completely false and baseless. The government has forcibly closed our stall in a fascistic manner. In a joint statement with SFI, the president of AILU, Advocate Bikash Bhattacharya said, this order is against the spirit of democracy and free speech enshrined in the constitution of India. The constitution puts the onus on the state to ensure freedom of thought and expression.    This is an assault on the fundamental and democratic rights of free thought and its expression. None of the books and periodical in question is banned by any law of the land, but are entirely legal publications. This step is the latest example how all the democratic rights and civil liberties are being trampled in Tripura under the BJP rule.                   The SFI will move the High Court against it. SFI also urged all the democratic minded people to voice protest against this undemocratic step. 

There has been widespread condemnation of the government for it. Eminent authors, poets, lawyers and a number of publishers have decried it.