Gorkhaland stir aftermath: Staff of India’s only Nepalese channel face uncertain future
The administration sealed the corporate and production offices of the Siliguri-based channel on the night of July 22 on charges of spreading hatred between communities and causing disharmonyindia Updated: Aug 26, 2017 23:46 IST
Till last month, they were proud members of India’s only Nepali language satellite channel. But now, 150 employees of the All Bharatiya Nepali Network (ABN Network) are worried about meeting daily expenses after the West Bengal government sealed its offices and shut the channel down.
They say the police regularly call them in for questioning and they face financial hardships, all because the state government thinks the channel favoured protesters demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.
The administration sealed the corporate and production offices of the Siliguri-based channel on the night of July 22 on charges of spreading hatred between communities and causing disharmony. This came a day after the channel broadcast a Khukuri rally organised by pro-Gorkhaland supporters on Facebook.
The Khukuri (a traditional Nepali /Gorkhali knife) rally was one of several across the Darjeeling hills that have been paralysed for more than two months by protests asking for a separate state.
Police say they shut the channel down on complaints that it violated prohibitory orders and telecast footage that fanned hatred in the Darjeeling hills.
“Our action was based on the FIR lodged against the channel by the Darjeeling district information and culture department,” said Niraj Kumar Singh, police commissioner of Siliguri.
But the channel dismissed the charges and alleged that the state government was muzzling press freedom. They also point out that a magisterial order restraining the channel from broadcasting news related to Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts was issued a day after the shut down. The order has since been extended.
In the interim, employees are without salary and say people who are based outside Siliguri are the worst hit.
Sunil Singh, a cameraman, said that he lived in Siliguri in a rented house with his ailing parents, wife and one-year-old daughter. “I am facing difficulty to meet the medicinal expenses of my parents and to run the family…the fear of losing my job always haunts me,” he told HT.
Rashmi Pakhrin a news anchor, joined the channel about two years ago, leaving her job in a private company. “We are in dark about what is happening and if the channel would start functioning again…our career is at stake.”
“We intended nothing but to be a neutral mirror of society. We’ll be back soon,” said channel’s chief MD Bijay Chamling.
First Published: Aug 26, 2017 23:44 IST