It is a month now since ABN Network, India’s only satellite channel in Nepali language, went off air. On July 22, West Bengal police raided and sealed its corporate office and recording studio in Siliguri. The next day, Rachna Bhagat, the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri, issued an order restraining the channel from broadcasting news programmes related to Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts until August 7. The order was extended indefinitely on August 8.
ABN Network executives have called the police raids and the magistrate’s orders an attack on the freedom of the press.
The police action followed two complaints, both by government officials, alleging that the channel was spreading “hatred between communities” and causing “social disharmony” by broadcasting, and sharing on Facebook, a khukuri-rally staged by pro-Gorkhaland supporters in Siliguri on July 21. The khukuri, which is a traditional Nepali knife, is one of the symbols used by protestors who have been demanding a separate state for Nepali-speaking Indians, or Gorkhas, since early June.