Lucknow: A senior journalist working with a local daily in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur region was beaten up publicly and threatened allegedly by a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and his sons while returning from work. Police have lodged a complaint against five people including the BJP leader.
Journalist Vinay Tiwari, a resident of Dhaurra village that falls under Jakhlaun police station, said he had gone on Saturday to carry out a fact check on irregularities in implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). He alleged he was waylaid by over half a dozen armed men along with the family members of the village head, whose husband is also associated with BJP, while returning home on a motorcycle.
"I was informed by my sources that simple work, like ‘trench work’ is also being done with the help of JCB machine for construction of a link road at Dhaurra village instead of hiring manual labour under MGNREGA in my own panchayat by the Gram Pradhan (village head). I rushed to the spot as soon as I got the information,” Tiwari told NewsClick.
“When the village head got information about my investigation of the coverage, she sent some miscreants along with her sons who stopped me midway and attacked me with sticks and batons and left me half dead. They even snatched my phone, camera and deleted photos and videos. They took away Rs 9,500 cash from my pocket," alleged Tiwari, who has now been referred to Jhansi Medical College from Lalitpur District Hospital for treatment as he was in critical condition.
Tiwari, who is associated with a local news website called Bundelkhand Times, reports on incidents in rural areas. He further alleged that the MGNREGA guidelines are meant to protect the workers but they are being misused at a massive scale in most of the places. "I knew that they were angry with my news. But I did not expect them to attack me because they are my neighbours. Now it is very clear that I was attacked because my story exposed their (BJP workers) plan of rigging,” Tiwari alleged, adding that “no action will be taken against them since the attackers belong to the ruling party.” The journalist also alleged inadequate action taken by the local police post in-charge.
Meanwhile, on the complaint of one Tiwari, [A1] the police have registered a case under Section 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (assault), 504 (abusive death) and 506 (threatening to kill) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against village head Babita Mishra, her son Vivek Mishra, Aryan alias Abhishek Mishra, Bharat Mishra and the BJP leader Rameshwar Mishra who also happens to be the husband of Babita.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Lalitpur, Mirza Manzar Baig said that one accused Abhishek Mishra has been arrested so far and the investigation is going on.
Hearing about the incident, journalists from various news organisations staged a demonstration outside the district commissioner’s office in Lalitpur on Sunday against the incident. They also sought action against the accused and the BJP leader's son who was involved in beating Vinay.
MEDIA OUTFITS CONDEMN ATTACK
Observing that attacks on journalists in Uttar Pradesh under Yogi Adityanath-led government has been increasing in recent times, the Uttar Pradesh State Accreditation Correspondent Committee demanded that the government bring to book all the culprits in the attack on Tiwari as well as in other assaults on scribes in the state.
"We observe that attacks on journalists in Uttar Pradesh have been increasing in recent times. At the same time, no concrete action has been taken by the state government in many of the cases," the press association told NewsClick.
Hemant Tiwari, president of Uttar Pradesh State Accreditation Correspondent Committee said it was very unfortunate that atrocities against scribes in the state were rising since the past three years.
"Attack on journalists in Uttar Pradesh has increased in the last three years, be it by goons, fringe elements or the government machinery. It seems that the government is letting it happen to hide its failure. Otherwise, they intervened long back when a journalist in Mirzapur was booked for exposing scam in mid-day meal,” Tiwari said.
Recounting a similar incident of another journalist in Jaunpur who was attacked by local goons but did not get media attention, Tiwari alleged, “It has become a daily routine affair in Uttar Pradesh. Last week, a journalist named Kaushlendra Upadhyay, who report for several mainstream media outlets, was beaten up by local goons. Ironically, he had informed the district authority before, but no action was taken.”
Tiwari pointed out that even though UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath condemned the arrest of Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami by the Mumbai police, he keeps mum on the situation in his own state. “Yogi Adityanath recently said that the arrest of Arnab Goswami is an assault on freedom of expression by the Congress party and its allies, but he never utters a single word on attacks on journalists in UP,” he said.
Another senior journalist Sharat Pradhan criticised Adityanath over his silence on attacks on journalists in the state. "Over two dozen journalists in UP have been arrested in false cases, but the CM can’t see this; rather, he is more concerned about Arnab Goswami who is not even a journalist. This government is acting like a dictatorship and wants journalists who tout its line," Pradhan said.
The latest incident occurred months after journalist Shubham Mani Tripathi was killed by unidentified persons in broad daylight while he was on his way home with his friend on a motorcycle, about 20 kms from Kanpur. NewsClick had reported that the young journalist was allegedly killed for exposing the sand mafia and land grab incidents.