Chhattisgarh journalists assault: SIT formed after panel points to ‘inaction’ by police, Congress

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Written by Gargi Verma | Raipur | October 11, 2020 2:02:19 am

Kamal Shukla narrating the incident to press.

Sixteen days after Kanker-based journalists Kamal Shukla, Jeevananda Haldar and Satish Yadav were attacked at a police station in Bastar division, the Bastar IG on Saturday suspended the police station in-charge and also formed a three-member SIT led by a sub-inspector from the same police station to investigate the matter, following directions from the state government. The decision came after a six-member journalists’ panel set up by the Chhattisgarh government submitted its report on Saturday.

In its report, the panel said that the journalists were attacked by a mob outside the Kanker police station despite a curfew and the Congress’s decision to act against only one of the accused will not send out a good message. The panel has also recommended addition of charges in the FIR filed by Shukla and Yadav.

Shukla, however, has criticised the report, claiming that he was not contacted at all. “They spoke to Satish Yadav on phone, citing Covid-19 as a reason to not meet us. If their report has made the government act, then why another SIT? The action they have taken is too little too late,” he said.

Kanker police station in-charge Mordhwaj Deshmukh was suspended by Bastar IG P Sundarraj on the directions of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. “Following the factual report of the journalists’ panel, an SIT has been set up by Bastar IG to investigate the incident. The CM has instructed the IG for immediate action,” read a statement issued by the state government.

Meanwhile, journalists from across Chhattisgarh are expected to gather in Raipur on Sunday to register their protest against the attack, responding to a call by Shukla, the editor of Bhumkal Samachar daily, who was allegedly assaulted and threatened with fire-arms at the Kotwali police station in Kanker on September 26 by a mob, allegedly incited by a few Congress leaders who resigned after the incident.

The accused include Kanker ward councilor Shadab Khan, ex-councilor Jitendra Singh Thakur, journalist Ganesh Tiwari and the local Congress MLA’s aide Abdul Gaffar Memon.

Thakur and Tiwari couldn’t be reached for a comment. Memon, one of the arrested, had submitted a complaint accusing Shukla of attacking him at the Kanker police station and fearing for his life.

Shukla, who has been on a fast-unto-death for eight days despite being hospitalised due to deteriorating health, had been reporting on illegal sand mining and the alleged involvement of some Congress leaders in such activities in the district. He had also been reporting irregularities in the district and local civic body in Kanker. During the tenure of the erstwhile BJP government, Shukla had formed a committee for safety of journalists persecuted by the government.

The Congress party had formed a separate committee to look into the attack on October 1, besides the one set up by the state government.

However, Shukla, along with other journalists, had marched to the CM’s office demanding action against the collector and personnel at the Kotwali police station on October 2 — the group was stopped midway.

Days after he sat on a hunger strike, Shukla was “forcibly” taken to hospital to break his fast on October 7, his son Shubham alleged. Shukla, a patient of diabetes and hypertension, is currently under observation and his sugar level has been fluctuating, according to sources close to the journalist.

Meanwhile, 25 journalists from across India have written to CM Bhupesh Baghel, demanding a magisterial probe. They also demanded the Protection of Mediapersons Act, a legislation promised by the Congress before it came to power in the state.

Shukla has called for a state-wide protest on Sunday, demanding action against those responsible for the attack. “I request all journalists to come to Raipur on October 11. We will decide on further action after seeing the government’s, CM’s and Governor’s approach. I am still fasting, and I request you to not fall for misinformation,” he wrote on Facebook.

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