“Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.”
India has witnessed many crimes and atrocities against journalists who have their own voice. Since 1994 until today, the calendar reflects resistance which is filled inside the country against the truth. Let us take a look at attacks on journalists around the nation and how the murder of ‘democracy’ took place.
Bakshi Tirath Singh was an Indian reporter who used to report for the “Hind Samachar” a Punjabi newspaper. His murder took place in Dhuri in 1992, the motive of which is yet to be confirmed. The case is still going on but the police was not able to fetch the information about the assassins.
This was an incident which shook the nation. In 1999, Shivani Bhatnagar who was working for the Indian Express was brutally murdered. The accused was a top-level officer of the Indian Police Service, Ravi Kant Sharma who had some relations with Shivani and was scared that she may expose him. Ravi Kant Sharma was convicted by the Delhi Trial Court for the charges in 2008. But in 2012, the Delhi High Court acquitted Ravi Kant Sharma, Sri Bhagwan Sharma and Satya Prakash citing lack of evidence on appeal. The conviction of Pradeep Sharma was upheld.
Thounaojam Brajamani was the editor of English daily Manipur News. It was reported that he died on the spot when two men shot him from point blank range after stopping his two-wheeler in the heart of the city. The police told the media that the motive was totally unknown but there were some facts which were remotely connected to the assassination. The victim was given death threats via phone calls, the family was threatened on 15th August. Brajamani was founder president of the Manipur State Journalists Association and convenor of the Journalist Front, Manipur.
Pandey was a crime reporter for the Jansatta Express who was shot multiple times in his residence in Lucknow’s Gomti Nagar in April 2002. It was speculated that the murder might be related to a story he had worked on. Jyotiresh Pandey alias Anna Pandey, a city lawyer was initially arrested, but the case never drew to a clear conclusion, neither was a motive determined. The incident sparked a feeling of anger among journalists and many of them came onto the streets to protest against this brutal attack on the freedom of expression.
Yambem worked for the television company, Northeast Vision. He worked as a chief correspondent in-charge which provided footage for the channels which were there related to the local Imphal cable. Yambem was found dead, blindfolded with his hands tied – he had been beaten up with sticks and rods and eventually shot in the head. The murder took place at his own residence. Some people also connected the murder with a side business which he was a part of, the dealing in semi-precious stones but the motive was still unknown. Competent authorities are still looking into the matter.
Indra Mohan used to work for the Assam based paper Amar Assam, he was a phenomenal person. It has been reported that he was kidnapped from his home by some members of the United Liberation Front of Assam. Later, some reports claimed that Indra died because of terminal illness. The Committee to Protect Journalists writes:
“In November 2003, local newspapers had quoted rebel sources saying that Hakasam had been killed by the ULFA. The Journalists’ Union of Assam (JUA) organized a one-day sit-in strike on November 21, 2003, at the press club in the town of Guwahati, where Hakasam’s newspaper is published, to demand that the ULFA provide information about the journalist. The JUA also submitted a memorandum to the Assam Government and Goalpara District authorities urging them to help locate Hakasam and probe his disappearance. But, by February 2004, after the unofficial declaration of Hakasam’s death from “illnesses,” the movement came to an end. The ULFA is not known for kidnapping journalists, but they have been blamed for the deaths of at least one other journalist, according to local journalists and CPJ research: Parag Kumar Das, editor-in-chief of Asomiya Pratidin, the largest circulation daily in Assam, who was gunned down in Guwahati in 1996, allegedly by a splinter group of the ULFA.”
Ranjan, a correspondent for Hindi-language daily Hindustan, was shot in the town of Rosera in Samastipur district which is in northern Bihar, according to Alok Mohit. Three men on a bike fired bullets as he was on his way back home from the office.
As per the Committee to Protect Journalists:
“A First Information Report said two unnamed people and two alleged conspirators, Hariom Lal and Vinod Deo, along with an alleged shooter named Pinku Kumar, were involved in the killing, reports said. A month later, police arrested Krishna Yadav, for allegedly being a hired killer. In 2009, Lal and Deo filed a petition before the Patna High Court seeking bail, in which they said there were only allegations that they had conspired to kill the journalist by paying a ‘supari’ (contract) to the alleged gunman, Kumar, reports said. In April 2010, the Patna High Court rejected their plea and ordered them into custody, according to reports”
Rajesh Verma worked for IBN7, and while he was covering the riots in Muzaffarnagar, he was shot by unknown assailants.
“The clashes erupted following police dispersal of a meeting by Hindu farmers calling for justice in the killings of two Hindu men, according to The New York Times. The victims were believed to have been killed by Muslims, news reports said. Officials said the clashes were also fueled by a false video circulated last week that purportedly showed the two men being lynched. At least 28 people were killed and more than 90 individuals arrested in the violence.
In February 2016, a Special Investigation Team set up to look at cases related to the Muzaffarnagar riots filed a closure report in Verma’s case. The report, which was filed in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate Narendra Kumar, said that the accused remain unidentified.”
Gauri Lankesh was a fearless woman who had the courage to stand up against injustice. She was a critic of right-wing Hindutva politics, she had the opinion that it created a feeling of hatred as it never reflected the main idea of ‘Hinduism’. On 5 September 2017, three people attacked Gauri and shot her inside her house in Bangalore. The attack was largely condemned and the country was on a verge of revolution against the attacks on journalists. This murder was a death of freedom, a freedom to form an opinion.
Recently, some people were recognized with the involvement of Lankesh’s death. The statement which he stated was very sad, not because it reflected the idea behind the murder, but because it gave religion a platform to create hatred against each other;
“I was told in May 2017 I had to kill someone to save my religion. I agreed. I didn’t know who the victim was. Now I feel that I should have not killed the woman,” a Times of India report quoted Parashuram Waghmore as telling the SIT.
Sandeep Sharma was a reporter with News World. In 2017, he had conducted a sting on Sub Divisional Police Officer Indra Veer Singh Bhadouria and exposed the corruption in Madhya Pradesh police, and illegal sand mining. In March this year, the 35-year-old journalist was run over by a dumper. The incident was caught by a CCTV and the video went viral on social media.
A report by Scroll states:
“Soon after [the sting], Sharma wrote to senior police officials, saying he and his colleague Vikas Purohit, who had helped him conduct the sting, feared for their lives and demanded protection. The letter, stamped by the Bhind superintendent of police’s office on November 3, mentioned that copies of it had been sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.”
This incident took place recently which shocked the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Shujaat was killed in daylight by two men who were riding a bike. This recent attack reflected how intolerant and insecure we have become that we cannot tolerate an opinion.
One of his friends expressed how this death will be a huge loss to this country and for those for whom he used to fight those battles:
“It is not an ordinary killing as Rising Kashmir Editor Shujaat Bukhari was not an ordinary man. A friend, a voice of reason and hope, a brilliant reporter, a great editor who moved out of the Hindu to start his own newspaper and made it a resounding success, a voice with resonance in both India and Pakistan, a popular man, intelligent, bright and never allowing the vagaries of the time to impact on his commitment to peace. Yes, that was Shujaat, a loving husband, a doting father and a man who never stopped looking on the future for Kashmir with optimism. For many of us in Delhi who worked with him, sat with him, often drove him crazy with our demands, his death is such a loss, it has created a void that cannot be filled. Simply because there is no second Shujaat.”
These were only some of the 54 killings which took place between 1996 to 2018. The media plays an important role in guiding the people with competent news. It is a harsh reality that we are losing great journalists day by day in the time when we need more. Recently, Ravish Kumar was given death threats because he is a critic against the injustice. This reflects how we are developing as a democracy. The Constitution still gives us hope to fight this battle.