Threatened, Jailed, Murdered: Chhattisgarh’s Journalists Protest For Freedom Of Press

By Arunima Singh:

chhattisgarh journalists protestSantosh Yadav, Prabhat Singh, Deepak Jaiswal, all journalists from the state of Chhattisgarh, are in prison. Their only crime appears to be their adherence to the basic values of journalism which is to report by speaking to all the relevant persons concerned with an issue, to highlight injustice and speak truth to power.

On 10th May, a protest demonstration was held at Jantar Mantar by the organisation Patrakar Suraksha Kanoon Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti on the issue: alleged ill-treatment of journalists in Chhattisgarh. They also want a legislation to protect journalists working in the state.

According to the protestors present whom I spoke with, most local journalists reporting on important issues are either driven out of the region, or threatened and tortured with the entire government machinery working against them.

I spoke to Nitin Sinha, a journalist who has gone through such treatment, regarding this. He recalled how Umesh Singh Rajput and Sushil Pathak two other journalists were murdered for publishing news, just a couple of years ago.

Their alleged murderers are yet to be punished. “Journalists such as Saurabh Agarwal and Santosh Singh Rajput were jailed and later released for allegations which had no basis. Manoj Soni was beaten up by the police in the compound of his house and arrested in a false case. With the help of some NGOs, we managed to free him, but not all journalists are as fortunate. Many of them are on the run, having been charged under false allegations by the local administration. For reporting anything which might be unfavourable for the ruling party or the government officials, these journalists face all kinds of torture,” Sinha alleged.

I also spoke to Jagdish Kumar, another journalist allegedly facing the wrath of the authorities for covering the issue of human trafficking in the area. He narrated how a journalist could be allegedly framed in Chhattisgarh for a crime he was trying to report.

“I used to report about human trafficking in the area. I rescued a girl who was being sold off and freed her. Later, the police manipulated the same girl to allege that it was I who had tried to sell her off, and not the other way around. That is just how the system works there,” he claimed.

Jagdish Kumar is currently under investigation in the case and after his bail got rejected, has been declared an outlaw by the police, with several others. They are all on the run, or in the local parlance ‘farar’.

Sinha lamented that the alleged torture was not limited to local journalists who reported on certain issues. “You can go to Chhattisgarh from the capital, or from any other place. But if you speak up against the atrocities or the functioning of the government, you will face the same wrath. You will either be driven out of the state, or a false case will be registered against you. There is a local newspaper in Raigarh, Adivasi Stambh, which published an article about the local Mahila Vikas Committee collecting Rs. 200 from the poorest of families of the region during a ‘Vikas Yatra (Development Journey)’ of the Chief Minister. The journalists responsible for the piece were charged under sections such as ‘obstructing public servant in discharge of public function’ who were later denied bail, and since then have been declared outlaws by the police and administration.”

Saurabh Agarwal, another local journalist who had turned up at the protest site, was also put in jail for his reporting. “I was reporting about the exploitation of locals. The government had ordered the destruction of a woman’s house. She was to be paid Rs. 19 lakhs in compensation, which was not given to her. I was trying to record all of it on my phone when a senior officer came and seized it. He threatened me that if I reported on the issue, he would put me in jail which is what transpired later. I still haven’t gotten my phone back.”

Efforts are made to drive these people out of the area, or punish them if they don’t. In the face of relentless intimidation, Scroll.in’s contributor Malini Subramaniam left Jagdalpur, after continuously working against all these challenges to present the reality of the region.

Santosh Rajput discussed with me the treatment meted out to the journalists by the administration. “We are putting our lives in danger by reporting about such issues. For a report about the illegal felling of trees and the disregard by the government, we went inside these jungles and collected evidence. But no one took any action against the culprits. On the contrary, it was us who were questioned and humiliated, with all these officials asking us why we wanted to malign the government’s image,” he alleged.

He added that this was ‘disheartening’. “I often wondered why I was doing this. But I understand now that this is a struggle, and we have to be a part of this if we want things to change.” The journalists from Chhattisgarh also talked about the allegations against them such as being “sympathetic to Naxals” as well as “harbouring Maoist thoughts”. Organisations like ‘Samajik Ekta Manch’, allegedly backed by the local police and administration, also protest against them, often resorting to a violent display of their anger. Harassing the journalists and the people associated with them, damaging their property etc. is allegedly the usual procedure.

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below