Journalists gathered in Delhi on Friday to mourn and condemn the killing of Shantanu Bhowmik, a 28-year-old reporter who was beaten to death with sticks and rods in Mandai, Tripura on Wednesday. Bhowmik’s killing, weeks after the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, prompted a collection of media groups to demand action from state governments under whose watch reporters have been killed while also calling on the journalism fraternity to hold a silent protest on October 2.
“The attacks on journalists is a worrying trend and unacceptable in a democracy like ours,” a resolution adopted by several organisations including the Press Club of India, the Indian Women’s Press Corps and others at the meeting said. “We demand that concerned state governments take exemplary and time-bound action under Indian laws against those involved in killing and intimidating journalists.”
Bhowmik had been covering the clashes between members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura and Tripura Rajaer Upajati Ganamukti Parishad, the tribal wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). According to The Indian Express, he was taping videos of the violence on his cellphone when a mob of IPFT members attacked him with sticks and rods.
“Bhowmik was caught by the mob at a spot where there were no policemen. He was detained by the mob and beaten to death,” said Abhijit Saptarshi, Superintendent of Police, Tripura West district.
“Threats on social media are nothing compared to threats journalists face in the Northeast,” said senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, speaking at the protest meet. “This is not about 2014. Every government in this country, whether state or Centre has made journalists a soft target... but we must come together. We must make our voices heard.”
Speakers at the meet brought up the attempts by many to divide the journalistic fraternity into various factions, whether big city and small town, North or South or nationalist and anti-national. “In view of the growing attacks on journalists and attempts to polarise journalists, we urge the journalist community to be vigilant against divisive forces and remain united in the interests of strengthening Indian democracy and the freedom of the press,” the resolution said.
The protest meet followed condemnation messages from a number of other organisations including journalists in Agartal, Tripura, who blocked the road leading to Chief Minister Manik Sarkar’s residence on September 20. The protesters only removed the blockade after Sarkar assured a delegation of journalists that speedy action will take place. Three people affiliated to the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura have so far been arrested.
Friday’s resolution also called for a peaceful protest by journalists around the country to send a message to the authorities and those seeking to intimidate the media on October 2, coinciding with the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.