Action on defamation case by NGO being turned into police tyranny in Bastar?
Prabhat Singh, a 32-year-old who is said to be working for a Hindi daily Patrika, was picked up by Bastar police on March 21 from Dantewada district. He was produced before a Jagdalpur court on Tuesday which sent him on judicial remand till March 30. Media alleges that this was done in an attempt to silence the journalist in Bastar., a grave attack on fundamental right to Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Press and the onset of a “Police State”.
On March 1, Prabhat Singh filed a complaint against Santosh Tiwari, Mahesh Rao (local journalists) and some members of Samajik Ekta Manch, a social organisation which conducts anti-Naxal mass events along with police, accusing them of defaming him on a WhatsApp group named ‘Bastar News’ and calling him ‘Anti-National’. The police accepted the complaint on March 6 but didn’t find anything objectionable.
On March 5, Santosh Tiwari, a former ETV correspondent based in Bijapur registered a complaint for allegedly making derogatory comments against some members of the Samajik Ekta Manch on the same WhatsApp. Case was registered under section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) and 67(A) of the IT Act as well as section 292 (publication of obscene or scurrilous matter) of the Indian Penal Code. The chat had a word ‘mama’ which refers to Police, picking up this word Media made it an issue of police targeting journalist for speaking against them. Indian Express reported it with a spin- “Chhattisgarh: Journalist arrested for allegedly taking a dig at a cop on WhatsApp”.
In effect, the arrest is NOT for “taking digs at police”. The arrest may not have anything to do with what was said about the police. The arrest are on charges of “obscenity on electronic media” and the aggrieved are Samajik Ekta Manch. But we must understand that it cannot be claimed that a private organization is directed by the government, but bringing in the police embroils the Chattisgarh govt (led by BJP) and taints its ethos and commitment to Fundamental Rights.
As for Prabhat Singh, this is not the first case against him, there are 3 more pending cases against him which the police added it in the case. Of two cases are related to section 420 of IPC (cheating) for issuing fake Aadhar cards to villagers in Geedam and Barsoor area of Dantewada for making money and in a case in which he’s accused of taking photographs of girls in a school toilet. This means, Prabhat Singh is not the “noble victim of state tyranny for being a journalist” as he is made out to be. He could be a repeat offender (subject to court pronouncements).
Bastar SP RN Dash said to TOI-
We got a letter from Dantewada PRO that says Prabhat wasn’t listed as journalist with DPR. For police his crime is bigger than his profession and that’s what we consider, purely crime records. Moreover, the complainants in his case are the scribes themselves and in other cases there are government employees who lodged FIR against him complaining of cheating while construction of roads, issuing Aadhar cards, how could he be a journalist and contractor at same time?”
Prabhat Singh is not a full time Journalist of Patrika, Patrika says he sometimes contributes. He runs a Aadhar Card issuing center in Dantewada and is also a contractor for construction of roads. In effect, Prabhat Singh may not even be the journalist he is being portrayed as. This portrayal again helps only in blowing up a criminal defamation case involving a possible repeat offender as only of state tyranny against the journalistic community and by extension, on the Fundamental Rights and the constitution itself!