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Voices Unite: Solidarity Pours in at NewsClick Founder Prabir Purkayastha’s Book Event

Prabir Purkayastha, currently in judicial custody alongside NewsClick's Human Resources head, Amit Chakraborty, has been under arrest since October by the Delhi Police in a case registered under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Prabir Purkayastha

Image courtesy Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

New Delhi: Senior journalists, writers, lawyers, academicians, and activists came together on December 14 to express solidarity with Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor-in-chief of NewsClick. The focal point of the gathering was a discussion on Purkayastha's latest book, Keeping Up the Good Fight: From the Emergency to the Present Day. The event was hosted jointly by Leftword Books and the Press Club of India.

Prabir Purkayastha, currently in judicial custody alongside NewsClick's Human Resources head, Amit Chakraborty, has been under arrest since October by the Delhi Police in a case registered under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

N Ram, director of The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited, joined the event virtually and highlighted the book's significant connection between the Emergency of 1975-77, during which Purkayastha was arrested and jailed, and the challenges faced in the present day. He remarked on the current state of affairs as a "much more serious attack in perhaps darker times," highlighting the targeted attacks on the independent press.

"Institutions have been captured, institutions have been manipulated, and media freedom is under full-scale attack... of course, there are still spaces where people speak up," he was quoted as saying, referring to the current period as the "Hindutva authoritarian regime." Despite the challenges, he encouraged optimism, emphasising that the book conveys the lesson that although things may look bleak for media freedom and basic human rights, one should not succumb to pessimism.

“May be short-term pessimism is inevitable, but don’t be pessimistic, and this is not contrived or artificially communicated in the book, I think it comes through living the experience,” he added, according to a report in The Hindu.

“We know that the whole McCarthyism campaign, it’s not essentially a media story, it’s about a complete socio-political, ideological formation which has injected a lot of poison into the information ecosystem. The McCarthyism that descended on NewsClick and, particularly on Prabir and Amit, was aided and abetted by a lousy piece of journalism by the New York Times…,” said Ram, referring to an article on American millionaire Neville Roy Singham published in August.

“It is these men and women of conscience who fight the good fight, or remind us that the Constitution is a solemn compact between citizen and citizen, like this is a nation that we will work together and we will live together. It is unfortunate that Prabir has been a victim of defending the Constitution twice in his lifetime,” said senior advocate Hegde, according to The Hindu report.

While acknowledging Purkayastha as a defender of the Constitution, Hegde noted Purkayastha's rejection of victimhood, as it robs individuals of active participation in shaping history, reducing them to mere objects.

Other speakers at the event included writer Githa Hariharan, Indrani Mazumdar, formerly with the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, and Magsaysay awardee and social activist Bezwada Wilson, all of whom have known Purkayastha for several decades.

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