Days after the arrest of Prabhat Singh, Chhattisgarh Police on Saturday arrested another journalist accused in the same case while he was waiting outside a local court in Dantewada district with his lawyer to file an anticipatory bail.
The journalist, Deepak Jaiswal, works with local Dantewada newspaper Dainik Dainandini. He was arrested in connection with a case of alleged extortion, lodged on August 8 last year by the principal of a school in Geedam town in the district. Jaiswal’s lawyer Kshitij Dubey has rubbished the allegation.
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Dubey told The Sunday Express that they wanted to file an anticipatory bail since Prabhat Singh had already been charged, and arrested, for the same offence. “We were in the process of drafting the affidavit when Chhattisgarh Police arrested him from outside the court – they arrested him, and charged him,” Dubey said. “We filed for immediate bail for (both) Singh and Jaiswal in the court of CJM, but it (bail plea) was rejected.”
Jaiswal was sent on 14-day judicial remand. “We will now apply for bail on Monday in the sessions court,” Dubey said.
The atmosphere is increasingly getting vitiated in Bastar, with many rights activists, journalists, and Opposition parties criticising the BJP government in the state for allegedly turning Bastar into a “police state”. Many journalists in Dantewada are now considering an agitation against Bastar police for alleged “high-handedness”.
According to the complainant against Singh and Jaiswal, they had allegedly entered the school during an examination without permission, misbehaved with the staff and tried to extort by threatening to write “negative news”. Kamlochan Kashyap, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada, said the principal has alleged that the two threatened to write a false news report about cheating going on in the school during examination, “and on that pretext asked for money”.
Dubey rubbished these allegations and said Singh had written extensively on alleged widespread cheating in exams. “We have proof that based on those reports action was taken against senior officials. That, too, has been reported,” he said.
The police also claim that Jaiswal is not a journalist. When told that a letter dated October 1, 2015 to Dantewada’s Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) specifies the newspaper’s registration number and notifies the authorities about Jaiswal’s appointment as its chief of bureau, SP Kashyap remarked, “Then how do we have in writing from the district DPR that he is not a journalist? Geedam police asked for this information, and were told that he is not a reporter.”