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Two dozen of their brethren killed since 1992, Indian Journalists ask for New Law to Protect their Rights

G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s national spokesman, rejected the CPJ findings, claiming there was no need for a separate law

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Sept 07, 2016: Indian journalists are demanding a fresh law that protects their rights in the wake of a new report that claims more than two dozen of their type has been killed since 1992 in the world’s most populous and renowned democracy.

“It is now extremely important to have some sort of cover for journalists, especially those who are vulnerable – the ones working in small towns, as they do not have the same level of support as journalists working in big cities,” said Jagtap Yadav, a senior journalist from Agra, in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state to Benar News.

“Investigative reporters and cameramen, particularly those covering politics and corruption, are working under constant threats. We need a new law that protects us,” Yadav said.

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Journalist Kishore Dave, the bureau chief of local daily “Jai Hind-Sanjh Samachar,” was stabbed to death on August 22, 2016, at his workplace in Junagadh, Gujarat, according to Indian media reports. Three suspects were arrested two days later. One of the suspects arrested was involved in a business partnership with and had issues with the journalist, New Delhi Television reported.

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Demand grows

Yadav said the call for a new law to protect the rights of Indian media workers began in May after two journalists were killed in Bihar while working on separate stories.

On May 13, two men on a motorcycle gunned down Rajdeo Ranjan, bureau chief of leading Hindi-language daily Hindustan, in the Siwan district of Bihar. A day earlier, Taza TV news channel reporter Akhilesh Pratap Singh was killed in a similar fashion in neighboring Jharkhand state.

The demand for increased protection gained support and attention after the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based international media overseer, released a report on Monday claiming that the Indian government has failed profusely to protect the journalists who were working to expose graft, Yadav said.

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The investigative report by CPJ shows that 27 Indian journalists have been killed during the past 24 years. The CPJ said it found only one case in the past 10 years where a suspect had been charged, prosecuted and convicted for killing a journalist.

Kishore Dave’s killing was not included in the CPJ report.

“As a group, we welcome the CPJ findings. It will strengthen our demand for a new law,” Yadav said.

The CPJ report also noted that India’s disreputably slow judiciary is a concern. “Even if a court hears the case, there will be delays,” the report said.

India, with its population of 1.25 billion people, has more than 30 million cases pending in the court system, according to the latest available official figures.

“It is becoming more and more difficult to work and report on [the] ground, partly because there are no credible institutions that one can turn toward,” said Sonal Mehrotra of NDTV to Benar News.

Mehrotra and a colleague were threatened with violence, abused and maltreated by a group of lawyers while reporting inside New Delhi’s Patiala House Courts for a story related to the arrest of a controversial student leader on charges of sedition in February.

“It is all very ironic as it happened in a court room, which is one of the most important pillars of a democratic society. Shockingly, it took me longer to file a police complaint than it took for the accused to get bail. And not much has moved forward since,” Mehrotra said.

Calls for law to shield press

The New Delhi-based Press Club of India president Rahul Jalali said a law on the books, the Working Journalists’ Act, provides some cover to regular employees of newspapers, but even press associations are “not clear about its exact implementations.”

“We need a new law that covers all working journalists, whether freelance or contractual, so that they are not exploited,” Jalali told in a recent interview. “I have observed that a majority of defamation cases in the past couple of years have been on journalists working for online magazines, which the present law does not protect.”

G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s national spokesman, rejected the CPJ findings, claiming there was no need for a separate law.

“I do not agree with the sentiment that there is shrinking space for free speech in India. This [the CPJ report] is mostly propaganda,” he was quoted saying.

“Yes, there have been incidents of journalists being targeted recently, but we have always made it a point to come forward and vehemently condemn such acts of violence [as] journalism continues to be a strong pillar of our democracy,” he added. (Benar News)

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  • Arya Sharan

    The media is expected to expose lies and tell truth but when they are the ones who suffer when they do so.

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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

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Hinduism
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At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

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Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

Hinduism
Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

Hinduism
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)