Journalists from the heavily left-wing violence affected district of Bijapur in Chhattisgarh have decided to take out a 247-kilometre bike rally deep in Maoist-dominated territory, two days after posters appeared in the district threatening the state forest minister, officials and journalists. The Bijapur Press Club announced that the bike rally would commence on November 24 and last for three days.
On November 17, posters had appeared in the Usur panchayat of Bijapur threatening not only Chhattisgarh forest minister Mahesh Gagda and local officials, but journalists too who reported on encounters “incorrectly”. Scribes were reminded of the fate of Bijapur-based journalist Sai Reddy, who was killed by Maoists in December 2013. Reddy often faced accusations from both the state and the Maoists of working for the other side. In the aftermath of his killing, journalists had similarly entered the forests in a show of defiance to Maoists.
The Bijapur Press Club on Monday announced that it would undertake a similar bike rally, which would travel through the forests for three days, and appealed for organisations that back journalists in the region to join in. The rally will stop at Pujarikanker on the first night, Dharmaram on the second and Kondapalli on the third. One Bijapur-based journalist said, “This takes us to the most Maoist-affected region in the country such as Pamed. We want to send a message that we will not be cowed down, and don’t want a journalist to be killed and then act.”
DM Awasthi, Special DG Anti-Naxal Operations who spoke to the Indian Express had condemned the posters, and had launched an investigation. “Enquiries are still underway,” a senior official said.