ABP Journalist’s Arrest in Kharagpur Widely Condemned
journalist Debmalya Bagchi. Image Courtesy: Twitter
Kolkata: The arrest of Anandabazar Patrika (ABP) journalist Debmalya Bagchi in West Bengal’s Kharagpur for allegedly making caste remarks and assaulting a woman on September 6 has been widely condemned.
Bagchi, released on bail on September 14, had been arrested within days of his August 26 and 29 investigative reports on the illegal liquor trade in the Patnapara area of Sanjoal, in Kharagpur’s Ward No 24.
Bagchi, a journalist with the leading Bengali daily for 12 years, was booked under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 354B (assault or use of criminal force with intent to disrobe), 509 (uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC, and under non-bailable provisions of the Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Around 4 am on September 6, the police knocked at Bagchi’s door and asked him to come out. He didn’t open the door. After the police left, Bagchi went to the Kharagpur Town Police Station, where he was arrested.
Bagchi was arrested along with one Basanti Das, a woman from Sanjoal protesting the Hooch trade, based on the complaint of a tribal woman named Saraswati Singh on August 28.
The complaint accused Bagchi and Das of verbally abusing Singh with casteist slurs on August 27. Singh also accused Bagchi of tearing her clothes and assaulting her.
Apparently, Singh brewed and stored Hooch in her house. According to Bagchi’s mobile phone location, he was, at least, five km away from her place, his well-wishers said.
A news portal named Sambad Titumeer uploaded a bulletin on its YouTube channel on September 8 that plays out a telephonic conversation between its correspondent Briti Sundar Roy and Singh, Alt News reported.
Singh tells Roy that neither she knows Bagchi nor he assaulted her or outraged her modesty. She named Bagchi in the complaint because she was “angry with him”.
Roy confirmed speaking to Singh. “The audio clip is completely authentic. I spoke to her. As you can hear, she admitted without any coercion from me that the allegations were made up,” she told Alt News.
Days after ABP journalist Debmalya Bagchi's arrest in Bengal under non-bailable charges, the complainant has told a local news portal that she made up the allegations as she was angry with Bagchi for writing against illegal liquor trade | @Indra_Calcutta https://t.co/TMANKHp2ny
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) September 14, 2023
According to local newspapers in Sanjoal, manufacturing Hooch is a cottage industry. There are allegations that the police ‘framed’ Bagchi in ‘collusion’ with Hooch manufacturers and traders.
Condemning the arrest, the CPI(M) West Bengal tweeted: “The arrest of @MyAnandaBazar journalist Debmalya Bagchi is another instance of the curbing of journalistic freedom by the govt of West Bengal. We at CPIM (WB) express deep concern at this turn of events. The freedom of a journalist to gather news & bring it to the common people should not be hampered at any point. We demand a speedy & impartial investigation into the alleged charges.”
The arrest of @MyAnandaBazar journalist Debmalya Bagchi is another instance of the curbing of journalistic freedom by the govt of West Bengal. We at CPIM (WB) express deep concern at this turn of events. The freedom of a journalist to gather news & bring it to the common people… pic.twitter.com/8AH8Y56ZL2
— CPI(M) WEST BENGAL (@CPIM_WESTBENGAL) September 9, 2023
News18 journalist Dhrubajyoti Pramanik posted on Facebook saying that Bagchi was instrumental in reporting against the Hooch trade and the land and sand mafia. “It is a clear attempt to silence his pen,” he said.
The Press Club Kolkata issued an official statement expressing deep concern about Bagchi’s arrest and sought chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s “intervention, who has assured due law will be followed. The Citizens Forum held a rally in Kharagpur town protesting against the arrest.
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