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Arrest of Journalist – Murder of democracy in Bengal

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West Bengal and the entire nation witnessed a rare event on Monday night. Santu Pan, a young journalist of a TV channel, was arrested for reporting on the unspeakable torture of the ruling party leaders on the mothers and sisters of Sandeshkhali, West Bengal.

Many unspeakable atrocities have been committed at Sandeshkhali, West Bengal against these motherly Bharatiya women, who have been worshipped as goddesses from ancient times. Various newspapers and media are playing an important role in bringing these events in front of the people of the whole country. We know that the media is called the fourth pillar of democracy, and in this case, this outrage of state police on the journalists may be for the proper role of the media. That is why the police, who for so long failed to arrest the criminals like Shahjahan, who took away the dignity of mothers and sisters. The state police are arresting journalists like Santu Pan, who raised the demand for the protection of mothers and sisters. In whose voice have the pitiful voices of those helpless, unfortunate mothers and sisters of Sandeshkhali emerged. The state police, who have failed to protect these mothers and sisters, are now trying to cover up the incident. That is why they are hyperactive. Not against injustice, but against the opponents of injustice, the state police are eager to stop them. Therefore, in Bengal, journalists have to stay in jail while notorious criminals like Shahjahan remain out of jail.

But will there be any solution to the incident of Sandeshkhali in this way? Or will the state government be able to cover up their failure by concealing the incident of Sandeshkhali? Let’s see what history says. If we look at the pages of history, we will see what has happened to those who have tried to hide various events from people’s eyes by restricting the rights of the media. The Indira Gandhi government can be taken as proof.

About fifty years ago from today, on June 25, 1975, then the President of Bharat, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, declared a national emergency across the country on the recommendation of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government at the center. At that time, the Gandhi family was eager to control the press as if it were their personal property. Indira’s son, Sanjay Gandhi, controlled what political news would be printed in the newspaper and what would not. Censorship was imposed on the press, and journalists did not have the right to write anything other than the restricted information. Newspapers were instructed not to publish more than ten pages, citing a shortage of newsprint as the reason. Moreover, the number of newspaper readers was very low, with only 1.5% of the total population of the country buying newspapers. While Indira Gandhi imposed a ban on the press for these reasons, these events exposed her autocratic mentality.

An interview she gave to Agence France Presse in early 1976 can be cited as proof of her autocratic mentality.

In that interview, she expressed her opinion in favor of censorship. While speaking in the Rajya Sabha, she said, “Once there were no newspapers, there was no agitation. The agitation was in the pages of the newspapers. If you ask why there is censorship of the press, this is the reason why”. (Source – Gandhi, Era of Discipline, p. 37) That is, according to her, there was no anxiety when there were no newspapers. Fears are created from the pages of newspapers. And she also made it clear that this is why she undermined the freedom of the press. Think about it, is there much difference between the words of the Chief Minister of West Bengal and the speech of Indira Gandhi at that time? It can be said with certainty that the Chief Minister of this state is a victim of the anxiety described by Indira Gandhi, that’s why she advised the people of West Bengal to watch serials instead of watching news channels.

Is there any major difference between the situation during the emergency of 1975 and the ongoing situation of Bengal? The first step taken by the government during the national emergency at that time was to cut off power supply to the printing presses of major news organizations in the capital. Only a few newspapers or news media that reported on behalf of the government were allowed to print news by the government. Most of the journalists, people associated with news organizations, and workers were detained. People’s rebellion, movement during the emergency; Infighting between the Youth Congress and the Congress forced control over the powers of the states, inflation; There was a strict government ban on publishing news about rebellions, agitations, etc., among the people of Northeast. Newspapers highly opposed to the government like Rajmohan Gandhi’s weekly ‘Himmat’, Tamil Nadu’s fortnightly ‘Tughlaq’, the paper ‘Mainstream’ edited by renowned journalist Nikhil Chakraborty were brought under censorship. As at that time, we are seeing how the freedom of the press is being taken away in Bengal today. There is nothing new to say about how people are being silenced by forceful intimidation.

Editor of ‘Motherland’, renowned journalist K. R. Malkani and head of the Hind Samachar Lala Jagat Narayan were imprisoned for the entire twenty-one months of the Emergency. Malkani wrote, “Motherland was the only newspaper in the country which in its edition published on June 26 not only informed people about emergency but also about arrest and protest at national level against emergency”. He also writes that power supply of the office of ‘Motherland’ located on Rani Jhansi Road, Jhandewalan, New Delhi was cut but the office of ‘Janyug’ newspaper located next door had electricity.

In this case too, the outrage of the state government and the ruling party is clearly shown in the media that highlights the voice of the people and opposed the state government of Bengal. So, the state police, who failed to punish the criminals, arrested a journalist on duty. In fact, even if one journalist is arrested, they want to send an indirect message to all journalists. They are trying to convey that if they take anti-government action, their situation may be the same, they may have to be arrested like this.

The arrest of a journalist in Bengal is not just an isolated incident; it symbolizes a broader threat to democracy. He was falsely accused and arrested in the line of duty because he did the job properly. He raised questions on behalf of common people.

Those who do wrong will fall, even if it is late, and the victory of truth is inevitable. Therefore, the voice of the people cannot be suppressed in any way by fear or force. Just as the arrest of the journalist is the blow to the fourth pillar of democracy, on the one hand they also started their own decline.

By Diganta Chakraborty

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