Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar on Tuesday alleged that Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) refused to broadcast his Independence Day speech unless he "reshaped" it and termed it as an "undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant step".
The public broadcasters did not air Sarkar’s six-minute speech which was scheduled to be aired at 6:30 am on Tuesday after the state government refused to make changes.
A Tripura government press statement alleged that Doordarshan and AIR had recorded Sarkar's speech on August 12.
On Monday 7 pm, the Chief Minister'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 Chief Minister was closely examined by 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, Doordarshan/Prasar Bharati will be happy if the chief minister agrees to reshape the content making it suitable to the solemnity of the occasion and sentiment of the people," it purportedly said.
The CMO statement claimed, "The chief minister clearly stated that he would not change a single word and described it as unprecedented, undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant step."
According to a Times of India report, Sarkar, in his unaired speech, said, “Unity in diversity is India's traditional heritage. Great values of secularism have helped in keeping Indians together as a nation. Today, the spirit is under attack. Conspiracies and attempts are underway to create an undesirable complexity and divisions in our society; to invade our national consciousness in the name of religion, caste and community, by inciting passions to convert India into a particular religious country and in the name of protecting the cow”.
“These unholy tendencies cannot be harboured or tolerated. These disruptive attempts are contrary to the goals, dreams and ideals of our freedom struggle. The followers of those who are not associated with the independence movement, rather sabotaged the freedom movement, were servile to the atrocious, plunderer and merciless British, aligned with the anti-national forces having decorated themselves today in different names and colours are striking at the root of unity and integrity of India,” he added.
The decision to drop the CM's speech triggered a war of words with CPM accusing BJP of using their "nefarious nexus with TMC and IPFT" to gain ground in the poll-bound north-eastern state.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Doordarshan was "not the private property" of the BJP-RSS and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "instructing his cronies to black out voices" of the opposition, including that of an elected chief minister.
In a statement, the CPI-M Politburo said it "strongly condemns the refusal by the Doordarshan and All India Radio to broadcast the customary Independence Day address of Sarkar".
"The Doordarshan and All India Radio 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 chief minister to address the people of his state on Independence Day. This act is reminiscent of the Emergency days and goes beyond as it seeks to gag the elected Chief Minister of a state. The central government is trampling upon the autonomy of Doordarshan/AIR and 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 ofTripura and all our citizens," the Marxist leader tweeted.
Reacting to the CPM’s allegations, a senior government functionary said, “No rule was violated and the call was taken by the broadcasters, at their own level. DD or AIR was not nudged to act in a certain way. If that had been the case, we would have had problems with other chief ministers as well”.