Facing flak from several quarters, the Himachal Pradesh government Tuesday withdrew a controversial order issued by Bilaspur superintendent of police asking journalists, wishing to cover Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to the state Wednesday, to provide a “character certificate”. The state police issued a press statement saying DGP Sanjay Kundu has withdrawn the order.
“The instructions issued by SP Bilaspur vide letter No. Sec/Function/22-17522 dated 29-09-2022 have been withdrawn by the Director General of Police, HP. Any inconvenience caused in this regard is regretted,” the statement read.
DGP Kundu tweeted: “All journalists are most welcome to cover Hon’ble Prime Minister’s visit to Himachal Pradesh on October 5th. Himachal Pradesh Police will facilitate their coverage”.
The prime minister will address a public meeting after inaugurating AIIMS in Bilaspur and participate in the famous Kullu Dussehra celebrations during his visit to the state.
Earlier, in a letter to the district administration on September 29, the criminal investigation department (CID), Bilaspur, sought the “character verification” of all press correspondents, photographers and videographers intending to cover the prime minister’s rally. The letter said that the verification needs to be submitted to the CID office by October 1. “Their access to the rally or meeting will be decided by this (CID) office,” read the letter undersigned by Bilaspur SP Diwakar Sharma.
The Congress and AAP criticised the order terming it “as an attack by the BJP government on democracy”. State Congress vice-president Naresh Chauhan and AAP state spokesperson Gaurav Sharma had also urged the state government to immediately withdraw the order.
Congress general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh took a swipe at the Himachal government over the order, saying on Twitter, “Rahul Gandhi has had 2 press interactions so far during Bharat Jodo Yatra. A third will be held very soon. Incidentally, no ‘character certificates’ are required for journalists to be at the interactions or cover the Yatra. And no teleprompters used!”
When contacted, the Bilaspur SP said that the “instructions were inadvertently issued” by his office. “This lapse is on my part. Police headquarters or the state government has nothing to do with it. A corrigendum has been issued and the letter has been withdrawn. All the journalists are welcome,” he said.
No such verification was sought for the PM’s scheduled rally in Mandi on September 24, which was cancelled owing to bad weather. Modi had later addressed the rally via video conferencing. The Wednesday’s visit will be the PM’s first to the state in the run up to the elections after he was forced to address a youth rally in Mandi virtually due to bad weather.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur along with BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda visited AIIMS, Bilaspur Tuesday and took stock of various arrangements.
“PM will be welcomed with fervour in the state,” said Thakur.
Apart fro AIIMs, the Prime Minister will also inaugurate a Hydro Engineering College, built at a cost of Rs 140 crore, at Bilaspur and lay the foundation stones of a Medical Device Park to come up at Nalagarh crore and Pinjore Nalagarh Fourlane.
It will be for the first time that a PM will witness the historic rath yatra at International Kullu Dussehra.