High-pitched campign for first phase poll in Assam ends

By PTI
GUWAHATI/MORIGAON: An Assam minister allegedly threatened to “vanish” two journalists of separate news channels for reporting a controversial poll speech of his wife, prompting the Congress to demand that his candidature for the assembly election be cancelled.

A complaint has been filed by one of the journalists at Jagiroad police station in Morigaon district against Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Pijush Hazarika, but an FIR is yet to be registered, police said.

In an audio clip telecast by Assamese news channel Pratidin Time, Hazarika was heard talking to journalist Nazrul Islam and, during the conversation, the minister threatened him and another scribe, Tulsi, to drag them out of their homes and “vanish” them.

The BJP candidate said in the phone conversation, which has now gone viral, that he was “sad” because they reported the controversial statement of his wife Aimee Baruah made at a poll meeting a few days ago in Jagiroad, the constituency of her husband.

In a viral video, Baruah was seen stating at the meeting that those not accepting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) would be thrown out of the country.

The objective of the CAA is to grant Indian citizenship to people of minority communities Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who had come to India till December 31, 2014, due to religious persecution in these countries.

The state witnessed violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019 and five persons lost their lives.

The protestors saw the law as a threat to their cultural identity and livelihood.

In a memorandum to the Assam’s chief electoral officer, state Congress president Ripun Bora said, “Pijush Hazarika has found to have threatened a reporter with dire consequences for showing a video of his wife recorded during her election campaign in Jagiroad.”

During the call, the BJP candidate stated that Islam should get ready to face the consequences for showing his wife’s news and the channel cannot save him, Bora alleged in the memorandum.

“He also warned Nazrul Islam allegedly for doing ‘Miya Politics’ to support Congress and ‘Aajmal Party’ i. e. AIUDF and threatened him that he will spoil Nazrul Islam’s life,” it read.

The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) led by Badruddin Ajmal is a constituent of the Congress-led Grand Alliance.

The incident has put the democracy of the state under “serious threat” and the public are now under want of protection from such threats, the memorandum claimed.

“That apart, the words ‘Miya Politics’, ‘Aajmal Party’ etc uttered. in the said call has directly aggravated the existing differences between the communities of the state and has created mutual hatred between them,” Bora said.

The contents of the conversation by Hazarika clearly violated the Model Code of Conduct, and laws such as the Representation of People Act, 1951 he added.

“Under such circumstances, I pray before your honour to take prompt and necessary action against Pijush Hazarika to disqualify his candidature from the present General Assembly Election and issue directions for filing FIR/Complaint against him,” Bora said.

The Gauhati Press Club (GPC) also condemned the “act of intimidation in the strongest words” and said that it is very unbecoming of a public representative to threaten a journalist of dire consequences.

The GPC also demanded that the safety and security of the journalists concerned should be ensured by the Election Commission and the state government.