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By Nava Thakuria
Northeastern part of India, which often receives media headlines for
relentless troubles and violent incidents, has completed one more year
with no journo-casualty. For record, the region has not reported any
murder of scribes in the last there consecutive years, even though
numerous cases of misbehave, assault and threatening to media persons
continue pouring. But the country had lost 13 working journalists to
assailants in this period and already earned a bad name in the
international arena.

In fact, as the year 2016 passed off, India stands as one of the worst
places for mainstream journalists similar to the conflict-ridden
nations like  Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Afghanistan, Burundi
etc, where journalists are being deliberately attacked compelling many
of them to flee for other countries. The largest democracy in the
globe witnessed the killing of six journalists last year, whereas the
populous country lost five & two journalists to attackers respectively
in 2015 & 2014.

The alienated region, which lost over 30 journalists to perpetrators
in the last 25 years, witnessed the latest incident relating to
journo-murder in Tripura where three Agartala based newspaper
employees were stabbed together to death in 2013. The killing of Sujit
Bhattacharya (proof reader), Ranjit Chowdhury (manager) and Balaram
Ghosh (driver) in the office premises of Dainik Ganadoot broke as
sensational news, because the Bangladesh bordering State had no recent
record of journalist-murders.

After a lot of hue & cry, the Tripura police arrested Sushil
Choudhury, the Dainik Ganadoot proprietor & editor. He was also
convicted by the west Tripura district & session court for the triple
murders. But soon Choudhury received the respite from the higher court
and lately the Tripura government has forwarded an appeal to the
Supreme Court against his acquittal in the sensational case.
Manipur and Assam, where over 30 separatist armed militant outfits are
still running their disruptive activities, witnessed the previous
incidents of journo-murder (Dwijamani Nanao Singh in Imphal &
Raihanul Nayum in Dhubri during  2012, Anil Mazumdar in Guwahati
during  2009, Konsam Rishikanta in Imphal & Jagajit Saikia in
Kokrajhar during  2008 etc). Assam alone lost 15 newsmen to armed
militants in the last three decades, but none has been convicted till
date.

Last year, the first incident of journalist murder in the country took
place in Uttar Pradesh, where a young scribe named Tarun Mishra was
shot dead on 13 February 2016 at Gosaiganj locality in Sultanpur
district.  Mishra (32)  used to work for a Hindi daily (Jansandesh
Times) and he was understandably targeted for highlighting the illegal
soil mining activities in his district. Three motorcycle riding
miscreants shot at him near to his residential locality in Ambedkar
Nagar and he succumbed to his severe injuries in the hospital.
The second casualty was reported from Jharkhand, where a television
news channel  reporter was killed by the local goons. Two unidentified
people targeted Indradev Yadav (also known as Akhilesh Pratap Singh)
at Dewaria locality of Chatra district on 12 May. Yadav (35), who used
to work for Taaza News, faced the bullets in front of the village
Panchayat office and died on his way to the hospital.

The third case of journalist murder came to light from Bihar within 24
hours. Unidentified gunmen shot at Rajdeo Ranjan at Siwan railway
station locality on  13 May. Working for a national Hindi newspaper
named Hindustan,  Ranjan  (45) died in the hospital.  The brave
journalist reportedly earned enmity with local political goons for his
reporting against their misdeeds.

Both the incidents created instant wave of protests in Ranchi as well
as in Patna and then it spread to other parts of the country. Various
local, national and international media (rights) bodies including the
members of prestigious press clubs based in New Delhi, Mumbai,
Kolkata, Guwahati etc demonstrated their angers against the vicious
attacks on scribes and demanded distinctive punishment to each & every
single perpetrator of the crimes.

Another tragic incident came to light lately from Punjab, where a
brave lady scribe named Anshita Bawa  died under a mysterious
situation. Anshita on 22 April drove her vehicle to meet one of her
friends, but she could not reach the location, rather her body was
found floating in a canal at Bool locality of Sudhar areas.

Initially it was understood as an accident or a suicide case, but the
post-mortem result narrated a different story. The autopsy report
revealed that Anshita, 22, was subjected to severe injuries before her
death. She suffered nearly nine injuries with a fatal one on her head.
Under pressure from her family members, the local police registered an
FIR terming it a case of murder.

The focus then shifted to relatively peaceful State of Gujarat, where
a senior journalist was stabbed to death in his office on the night of
22 August.  Kishore Dave, 53, was attacked by miscreants when he was
working in Junagadh office of Gujarati newspaper 'Jai Hind' and died
on the spot. There was no security camera in the one-room office,
where an office assistant later found Dave’s blood-soaked body lying
on the floor.

Soon the horror returned to Bihar as another journalist fall prey to
goons on 12 November.  Dharmendra Kumar Singh, who used to work for
Hindi daily ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ was targeted when  the 38 years old
scribe relaxed at a tea stall outside his residence during his morning
walk at Amra Talaab locality Rohtas district.

Three motor cycle-borne assailants fired at him indiscriminately and
succeeded in fleeing from the location. Singh was brought to the
Sasaram hospital, but he succumbed to injuries on the way. Local
journalists suspect that the stone-crusher mafia was involved in the
murder as Singh exposed their illegal activities through recent pieces
of reporting.

The killings angered the media fraternity in India and abroad. Amidst
protests by local journalist forums, three international media rights
bodies namely the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ, New York),
the Reporters Sans/Without Borders (RSF, Paris) and the International
Press Institute (IPI, Vienna) strongly condemned the incidents  and
called for authentic investigations into the murders.

Facing the heat of condemnations, the  Nitish Kumar led government in
Patna recommended for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe
into the murder of Rajdeo Ranjan. After registering the case under
sections 302 (murder),   120-B (criminal conspiracy) etc  of Indian
Penal Code, the CBI  had recently filed its first charge-sheet in the
case. There are some progresses in police arrest and investigations
over many journo-murder cases across the country, but none has got
legally punished till date.

According to the CPJ, over 70 professional and non-professional
journalists were killed worldwide in connection with their works last
year, where as usual Syria topped the list with 14 journo-casualties.
It was flowed by  Iraq (6), Yemen (6), Libya (3), Somalia (3), Turkey
(2), Mexico (2) etc. Besides Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, no
neighboring countries of India including Tibet (China), Nepal, Bhutan,
Maldives and Sri Lanka reported the killing professional journalists
in 2016.

Northeast’s immediate neighbor, Bangladesh  reported the killing of
one editor (Xulhaz Mannan, who edited a lesbian, gay, bisexual &
transgender  community magazine named Roopbaan) and a netizen (Samad
Nazijmuddin  of Ganajagaran Mancha) to criminals. The Muslim dominated
country also imprisoned Rahman Mahmudur of Amar Desh (since April
2013), Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury of Weekly Blitz (January 2014),
Salam Abdus of Ekushey TV (January  2015), Kanak Sarwar of Ekushey TV
(March 2015) and  Rimon Rahman of Amader Rajshahi (September  2015).
Myanmar, which has been changing from a military regime to the
multiparty democracy, lost one journalist last year. The Sagaing
region based scribe named  Soe Moe Tun, who worked for Daily Eleven
newspaper was targeted by the illegal logging mafia in northwest part
of the country. The NayPieTaw based government imprisoned five
journalists namely Lu Maw Naing  of Unity (since January  2014), Aung
Thura of Unity (February 2014), Sithu Soe of  Unity (February  2014),
Yarzar Oo of  Unity (February 2014) and  Tint San of  Unity (February
2014).Tibet or China was also devoid of  any journo-murder incident
last year, but the Communist regime in Beijing has imprisoned  as more
as 49 scribes and 81 Netizens.

In 2015, India lost Jagendra Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Sandeep Kothari
(Madhya Pradesh), Raghavendra Dube (Maharashtra), Hemant Yadav (Uttar
Pradesh) and Mithilesh Pandey (Bihar) to assailants.  The previous
year witnessed the murder of only two scribes namely MVN Shankar from
Andhra Pradesh and Tarun Kumar Acharya from Odisha. However the
country lost 11 journalists to the perpetrators in 2013 including
three newspaper employees from Tripura.

The author NJ Thakuria is a Guwahati based media activist.

Nava Thakuria,
Secretary, Guwahati Press Club,
Ambari, Guwahati-781oo1

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