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India's communists vow ‘legal and political’ fight against paper's closure

INDIA’S communists have vowed to fight “legally and politically” to defend freedom of the press after a state’s BJP government shutdown the party newspaper.

Tripura, which the Hindu nationalist party took control of from the communist-led Left Front earlier this year, has cancelled the registration of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) title Desher Katha after it had been published for 40 years, causing the loss of 200 jobs.

The paper was closed on a technicality relating to a problem in its registration details, but the CPI-M says the decision was political and that flaws in the registration process would usually result in a paper being asked to correct them rather than ordering it to stop printing.

CPI-M news site People’s Democracy said the closure was the “culmination of a series of attacks on the newspaper ever since the BJP-led coalition government assumed office six months ago” which included the distribution network refusing to take the paper as well as physical attacks on vendors and bundles being seized and burned.

“The Desher Katha and the CPI-M will not be cowed by this anti-democratic attack,” it pledged, saying that “the right to publish a newspaper and to convey news and views to the people is a fundamental right assured in the constitution ... [this] is a warning that no rights are safe under the BJP regime.”

The CPI-M politburo said the newspaper’s closure is “on flimsy and dubious grounds. This is a brazen attack on freedom of the press,” while the paper’s former editor Gautam Das said the “illegal gag” was the consequence of its “exposing the ruling-class bravely.”

Following its election victory, BJP supporters unleashed a wave of violence against CPI-M members in Tripura, with the party complaining to India’s central government as early as March that “1,539 houses were attacked, 196 set on fire, 134 party offices attacked.”

The BJP’s street wing, the RSS, is held by the CPI-M to be accountable for numerous violent and sometimes lethal attacks on political opponents across India.

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