An Indian freelance journalist, Jagendra Singh, was allegedly beaten up, laden with petrol and set on fire by 5 policemen in Shahjanpur district of Uttar Pradesh on June 1. Singh, largely a social media journalist, wrote fearlessly against Ram Murti Verma, Minister for Backward Classes Welfare in Uttar Pradesh, accusing him of land grabbing, illegal mining, corruption, and involvement in the gang rape of a nursery worker. Singh, the creator of Shahjahanpur Samachar also gave a statement to officer Amitabh Thakur, wherein he clearly states that police inspector Sri Prakash Rai and his team barged into his house for a raid and assaulted him. With burns all over his body, and skin peeling off, Singh is seen asking, “Why did they have to burn me? If the ministers and his goondas had a grudge, they could have beaten me instead of pouring kerosene and burning me.” He also states that his foot had been broken earlier on April 28 by the minister’s henchmen.
अपने अन्तिम समय मे पत्रकार ने कया कहाँ देखो
Posted by Sunilkumar Sharma on Thursday, June 11, 2015
The police tried to suggest that Singh attempted to kill himself while he was being arrested. The police has also attempted to raise doubts as to whether Singh can be considered a journalist at all since he only wrote on Facebook. Jagendra Singh’s son, Raghvendra, has filed a complaint against Verma and Rai, while his other son, Rahul Singh, has come out stating that the Akhilesh government is attempting to offer them cash and work in return for withdrawal of the case. “Ministers are ready to offer any amount to compensate my father’s death, as if some betting is going on. One is offering Rs 10 lakh while the other is ready to give Rs 20 lakh. They are luring us and can go to any extent so that we take back the case,” he said.
Where does this leave us?
If what Jagendra is alleging is true, then his death is a stark example of the gruesome repercussions of speaking fearlessly against the excesses of India’s ruling class. It is not just an outright breach of the right to freedom of speech and expression, rather suggestive of a collapse of India’s democratic structure and civil code as the Police, the very organization institutionalized for the protection of every citizen, seems to have allegedly gone out and carried out murder in cold blood. Backed by no tangible proof, and swayed by political pressure exerted by the ruling Samajwadi Party member and State Minister Ram Murti, the police allegedly committed this excess in a ruthless and inhumane manner. It is even more disheartening to see that the national media has failed to shed the required and desired light on this issue, or stand up for a member of a community that they call their own.
Shameer Babu, Programme Director, Amnesty International India stated that, “It is crucial that the UP government ensures an independent investigation and those responsible are brought to justice. Failure to do so will send out the message that those who criticize the government can be attacked with impunity.”
The loss of Jagendra Singh is a tragedy. I hope that his family receives solace through appropriate actions against the guilty, and justice is served.