After huge public furies, the authority in Orissa (now known as Odisha) have succeeded in nabbing two perpetrators out of four suspected criminals involved with the brutal killed of a young journalist understandably for his reporting about child labour practice in local factories.
The sad news broke out on the night of May 27, 2014 from the central Indian province, where Tarun Kumar Acharya, 35, was stabbed to death by the miscreants to record the first murder of a working journalist in the country this year. India, which supports a robust media, witnessed the killing of 11 journalists in 2013.
Acharya, who was based in Bikrampur of Ganjam district in Orissa, used to work for a regional news channel (Kanak TV) and contributed regularly for Oriya newspaper Dainik Sangbad. On the fateful night, he was targeted by the goons on his way to home riding his two-wheeler. Acharya died on the spot and his body was later recovered by local villagers with severe injuries on his neck and head.
According to the Reporters Without Borders, a Paris based media rights body, 30 journalists have been killed in 2014 till date where the motives have been cleared that the victims were targeted because of his/her activities as a journalist. The deadliest countries include Syria (7), Ukraine (3), Philippines (3), Central African Republic (2), Iraq (2), Libya (2), Brazil (2), Afghanistan (2), Egypt (1), Colombia (1), Mexico (1), Democratic Republic of the Congo (1), Somalia (1), Bangladesh (1) and India (Tarun Kumar Acharya). Days back, Acharya prepared a series of stories relating to the local cashew-nut processing factories deploying the children as workers. Moreover he remained vocal against few powerful individuals in his locality, 130 km away from Bhubaneswar, who made social nuisances time and again.
The victim family named few suspects in the FIR and the Orissa police, following huge condemnations from the media fraternity of India, started investing the case seriously. After 12 days of the incident, the police have arrested two local individuals namely Shyamsundar Prusty, who owns a cashew processing plant in Khallikote and Ramesh
Reddy, a small time businessman from Berhampur.
According to the police, Prusty developed a grudge against Acharya after he reported about the child labor practices in the cashew-nut processing factory and hired three killers including Reddy with Indian rupees 50,000 (1 USD= 60 Indian Rs). The police are confident of arresting the rest two suspects in the next few days.
The incident attracted the immediate attention of media fraternity in eastern India. From Orissa Union of Journalists, Berhampur Press Club to Media Unity for Freedom of Press every organization raised vices to nab the killers. Media persons based in Bhubaneswar also demonstrated in front of the Orissa Secretariat against the killing of Acharya and demanded an ex-gratia of not less than rupees 25,00,000 to the victim family comprising Acharya’s young widow, a minor girl and old parents.
After the journalist fraternity of Orissa, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) came out with
strong statements to book the culprits and compensate the family adequately. While the NUJ urged the Orissa government led by Naveen
Patnaik to take serious note of the incident, the JFA appealed to the Orissa based civil society and advocacy groups to stand behind the bereaved family at the time of crisis.
Voices of protest were also raised by various regional and national political parties in Orissa. Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Samajbadi Party etc had unanimously called upon the government for stringent actions against the culprits.
National Human Rights Commission (of India), responding to a complain fled by the Assam based scribes’ body informed that it has already registered a case (Regn. No. 2605/18/5/2014) regarding the killing of Acharya. The NHRC was also appealed for ample compensations to the bereaved family.
Meanwhile, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Orissa authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of Acharya and bring the perpetrators to justice. Quoting the CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney, the newsmen rights body said, “It is imperative to bring the masterminds behind this murder to justice in order to combat the culture of impunity that persists in India.”
The author is Secretary, Guwahati Press Club (of northeast India)