Journalists in Guwahati on Wednesday joined the nation in condemning the gruesome murder of Bangalore-based journalist Gauri Lankesh and demanded a high-level probe into the incident. The Journalists’ Forum of Assam (JFA) in a meeting also reiterated its old demand for a special protection law for the scribes across the country. “Gauri Lankesh’s murder is a yet another attempt to silence the media. It is dangerous for democracy and free voice,” said JFA president Rupam Barua.
JFA secretary Nava Thakuria on the other hand said incidents of threats and physical assault on journalists have been on the rise across the country. “India stands at an awkward position over the journo-murder index in 2017, as we have witnessed the murder of six journalists in the last nine months,” Thakuria, also general secretary of the Guwahati Press Club, said.
Thakuria also pointed out that Assam has witnessed the maximum number of incidents of murder of journalists in the past three decades. “As many as 32 journalists have been killed in Assam, some by militant groups including the ULFA, and some also by different nexus of criminals and unscrupulous politicians and officers. Most alarming is the fact that not a single culprit has been arrested in any of the cases, not to speak of conviction,” he said.
While Punarmal Agarwal, a district correspondent of The Assam Tribune was gunned down by suspected ULFA militants in Nagaon district way back in 1987, Kamala Saikia was abducted and killed by the ULFA in Sivasagar in 1991. At least two editors, Praga Kumar Das of Asomiya Pratidin and Anil Mazumdar of Aji – both Assamese dailies from Guwahati – were killed in May 1996 and March 2009 respectively.
“In several cases, the suspected killers were identified. But the investigating agencies later failed to pin them down and take the cases to their conclusion,” Prakash Mahanta, convenor of Journalists’ Action Committee (JAC) said. He mentioned specifically the murder of Parag Kumar Das, executive editor of Asomiya Pratidin, the highest-circulated Assamese daily, who was shot in broad daylight in Guwahati on May 16, 1996, while coming out of a school after picking up his minor son.
“Though the CBI carried out a long probe into the Parag Das murder, it ultimately failed to pin down the culprits, with the district and sessions court in Guwahati in July 2009 acquitting the main accused,” Mahanta pointed out.
Manipur has witnessed the killing of at least three journalists since the first incident of 1999 when Lalruhlu, editor of Shan, a Hmar language newspaper, was gunned down near Imphal. While Yambem Meghajit Singh, a Imphal-based TV journalist was killed by armed militants in October 2002, Dwijamani Thangjam, a Doordarshan news stringer, was killed in a police firing while covering mob violence in December 2012.