Chhattisgarh: After photos of leaf-masked tribes go viral, Bastar police slap journalist

RAIPUR: Has registered a case against a local journalist in Bastar after images of masked tribes made from palm leaves during the pandemic went viral on social media and also reached other news platforms.

The FIR under section 188 IPC was registered at the remote Amabeda police station in Kanker district, against a journalist, who took photos and video of tribes wearing face masks made from leaves. While the copy of the FIR uploaded to the Chhattisgarh police website did not mention the name of any journalist, senior police officials confirmed that they had appointed three journalists to the FIR.

According to information, a group of tribes, wearing face masks made from leaves, attended community meetings in the local villages of Antagarh a few days ago when local journalists took photos and spoke to them. They were reportedly told by tribes that they had heard of a spreading disease and therefore decided to use it, as there are no other protective measures available in the remote area affected by tribal Maoists.

After the FIR registration, one of the journalist's alleged statements began to circulate on social networks explaining the situation. The social media post said that together with three others they had visited a remote village in Amabeda to report on the life of the tribes at a time when even the haat bazaars are closed due to closure. When we got there, the local villagers played the drums according to local custom to report that someone had come to the village. During the discussion, the villagers said they had heard about the spread of the disease, therefore they wear masks made from leaves and use ash to wash their hands. Villagers also said that with the exception of journalists, no one from the administration has appeared since the closure was declared. After the news went viral, the Tehsildar visited the village, spoke to villagers, and took signatures from uneducated local villagers. The statement said, adding that later an FIR was filed against him and two others under section 188 of the IPC that deals with disobeying the orders of a public servant.

When contacted, the Chhattisgarh government spokesman said the matter has come to the notice of the prime minister, who has asked the police inspector general not to take any further action on the matter and to cooperate with the media. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has also requested a detailed report on the circumstances under which said FIR was registered against journalists.

Chhattisgarh is in the advanced stages of enacting legislation to protect journalists from any form of harassment after there have been numerous such incidents in the past, particularly in the Matarist-affected Bastar tribal region.