The attack on the residence of a journalist based in Jagdalpur in Chattisgarh and the subsequent police inaction has been sharply criticized by journalists’ organisations. The Network of Women in Media India in a statement strongly condemned the shocking attack on the residence of Malini Subramaniam, correspondent for the news site Scroll.In. “The continuous attempts to intimidate and threaten her into silence must immediately stop and those responsible must be brought to book,” the NWMI said.
Scroll.in had reported that a group of around 20 persons had come to her residence on Sunday evening and shouted slogans such as ‘Naxali Samarthak Bastar Chodo. Malini Subramaniam Murdabad’ (Naxal supporter, leave Bastar. Death to Malini Subramaniam). “Hours later, in the early hours of Monday morning, stones were hurled at her home, shattering the rear glass of her car.” Later in the morning, the Chhattisgarh police on Monday refused to file a First Information Report in the incident.
According to a Scroll.in report, the police refused to do more than accept her written complaint. The city superintendent of police Deepmala Kashyap told Subramaniam and her laywer Isha Khandelwal that she could not file an FIR without the approval of the district superintendent of police, who was not in his office.
Subramaniam has identified two of the men in the mob – Manish Parakh and Sampat Jha. Both of these men had accosted her at her residence on January 10 and are said to be members of the Samajik Ekta Manch, a Jagdalpur-based forum formed to counter Naxalism in Bastar and support the work of the police in the area. Parakh is the secretary of the BJP’s and Sampat Jha is a member of the Congress in Jagdalpur.
Subramaniam has been writing consistently on issues of adivasis and displacement, mass sexual violence as well as other human rights violations. It is these reports that the Manch appears to have targeted as being ‘pro-Naxal’ and anti-police. Since January 10, she has had to deal with late night enquiries from the local police and had to face a number of questions and submit documents giving proof of her identity. The news site had tried to take up the instances of intimidation with Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh but received no response.
Journalists across the country have earlier lodged strong protests over the arrest and continued incarceration of two journalists from Chhattisgarh, Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag.
NWMI has demanded that an FIR is immediately filed and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh immediately announce a full and thorough investigation into the incident and take steps to ensure the safety of Subramaniam. “His failure to do so can only be taken as an indication of his tacit support for such heinous and coercive tactics,” the Network said.
Scroll.in reported that Subramaniam’s intimidation comes at a time when journalists are mobilising against police harassment and the atmosphere of fear in Bastar. Two rallies in October and December last year put pressure on the government. “The chief minister announced the establishment of a committee of editors to act as a buffer between journalists and the police. The committee is yet to be formed.”