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Police chief admits helplessness

Use of social media to announce bandh, other forms of agitation

SHILLONG: Meghalaya DGP Rajiv Mehta, who had suggested the High Court of Meghalaya to restrain the media from publishing news related to bandh call by HNLC, has admitted that the Government will not be able to control other forms of communications including social media through which announcements of bandh, agitation and rally can be made by any group including the militants.
Supreme Court on March 26 this year struck down 66 A of Information Technology Act as unconstitutional as the clause was misused by the law enforced against those who post comments against the politicians and government on social networking sites.
The court had said such a law had hit “at the root of liberty and freedom of expression, two cardinal pillars of democracy”.
The militants and other organizations in the State continue to use social networking sites including Facebook to call bandhs and other forms of agitations.
To a question by the media persons who quizzed him on the High Court’s gag on print and electronic media from publicizing any form of agitations, Mehta said that it would be difficult on the part of the law enforces to control if the banned organizations like HNLC or GNLA use social networking sites to publicize the bandhs and other forms of agitations. “We may have no control over certain things (social media), but will continue to fight against anti-social elements till the law of the land is restored”, he said.
Asked what would be the role of the police if militants like GNLA and others use posters to announce bandhs and other mode of agitations, the DGP said whether there is a bandh or not, police would ensure normalcy.
He added that police was committed to fight against militants to ensure safety and security of the people.”Even during normal days, innocent people are targeted by GNLA in Garo Hills.  “It is an irony that while GNLA say that they are for the Garos, they do not seem to have any  ideology as they attack the people not only during bandh but on normal days too, and people have been murdered,” Mehta said.
According to DGP, while GNLA is a gang of criminals, HNLC is a defunct organization as the latter is operating from Bangladesh soil with just 30 to 40 cadres.
However, he asserted that operations against both the groups will continue.
To a question on what was the need on his part to urge the court to prevent the media from reporting bandh since the media persons were only performing their duty, the DGP said that he had only urged the court that the media should exercise caution while reporting about the HNLC, since it as an unlawful organisation, but he had no motive to gag the media. In the context of local media boycotting the Chief  Minister for his comments in the Assembly that media is acting as the mouth piece of  militant organizations, the police chief  claimed that his submission in the High Court to restrain media was not made under pressure from the Chief Minister. Mehta also said in the negative when asked whether he was tutored by the Chief Minister.
The police chief asserted that if the people come forward, no organisation which calls agitation, can dictate.
However, the DGP had no reply to the question on whether his appeal to ban the media was logical, as there were several instances when HNLC and others called bandh in the past through media, but failed to evoke much response from the public.

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