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Congress MLA assaults senior photojournalist in Shillong

SHILLONG, MEGHALAYA: First the Mawlai legislator, Founder Strong Cajee was caught on camera taking his forty winks inside the Assembly. Next he gives a cheque to a school out of his MLA funds which bounces. Finally he punches a photo-journalist and beats him black and blue.The outrageous incident of assault on senior photo-journalist Warton Lytan by the Mawlai Congress legislator, FS Cajee.occurred at the State Assembly corridor of the temporary Assembly building at Rilbong on Monday.The reason for the assault was that his `sleeping picture' was published in some of the vernacular dailies.

The incident happened in the presence of three other legislators, namely, Metbah Lyngdoh, Remington Pyngrope and PN Syiem who were witnesses to the incident. The Congress legislator from Mawlai accosted the journalist because a photograph of the legislator was published in local newspapers showing him sleeping while the Assembly session was in progress.The senior photo journalist was severely injured in the incident and is currently undergoing treatment at the Shillong Civil Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Shillong Press Club (SPC) in an emergency meeting condemned the incident and called upon the government to initiate appropriate action against the law maker for his unruly behaviour.The SPC also filed an FIR with the East Khasi Hills Superintendent of Police AR Mawthoh in this connection. In the FIR, the SPC said that such brazen attacks are a blatant act of repression on press freedom and the right to freedom of expression as enshrined by the Constitution. What is even more serious is that this despicable act occurred within the confines of the Assembly thereby tantamount to the assault on the sanctity of the House itself.

Meanwhile in a counter FIR, Cajee alleged that the photo journalist hurled insults at him and used provocative language.In the FIR Cajee claimed that Lytan told him "You Stupid MLA representing Mawlai Savage Constituency". According to Cajee, he (Lytan) said these words to him without any provocation on his part.The SPC also dashed off a letter of complaint to Assembly Speaker Charles Pyngrope, Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma and Leader of Opposition, Conrad Sangma apprising them of the incident and urging that justice be meted out to the injured journalist and the entire media fraternity.
The unprecedented assault on a journalist within the premises of the legislative assembly has been roundly condemned by the journalist fraternity including the Indian Journalist Union, Guwahati and Mumbai Press Clubs. The IJU in its statement condemns the brutal attack on the photo journalist."We request the Assembly Speaker to take strong against the errant MLA," IJU Secretary Geetartha Pathak said.

Meanwhile, Guwahati Press Club secretary Nava Thakuria condemned the incident strongly while urging the government to "take immediate measures to ensure the safety of all journalists in Meghalaya," adding, "this is a serious matter and must be taken to its logical conclusion."Taking strong exception to the incident, Assam Photo Journalists Association has also condemned the action of the legislator in strong terms calling it a "brutal attack."

Echoing similar concerns, Mumbai Press Club president Gurbir Singh while extending solidarity with the victim has urged the government to take appropriate steps to resolve the matter at the earliest while suggesting
that the same may be brought to the notice of the Press Council of India which according to him "will dole out justice".Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has assured that he would himself reach out to the legislator on the issue.The statement came after a delegation of media fraternity complained to the Chief Minister about the atrocities committed by the MLA. "I am disturbed and sad by the incident," he said, adding that this matter should not be further escalated so that the cordial relations between the press fraternity and the Government is maintained.

Leader of Opposition Conrad K Sangma has also condemned this act on the part of the legislator."This incident will definitely tarnish the image of all the legislators in the eyes of the public," Sangma said. He also said that he would be raking up the issue in the Assembly on Tuesday.Meanwhile, the KSU Mawlai Circle has condemned the assault by the Mawlai legislator against the journalist. "We are really sorry that the people of Mawlai have elected Cajee as their President. We apologise for the behavior of the MLA," KSU Mawlai Circle president Donboklang Kharlyngdoh said.The Meghalaya Editor's & Publisher's Association (MEPA) has also condemned the incident saying "such uncivilized behaviour is an insult to the freedom and publishing rights of the Fourth Estate." The MEPA, in a statement, appealed to the Governor, Chief Minister and Speaker to take stringent action against Cajee.