To protest the killing of Bijapur-based journalist Sai Reddy by Maoists in December, journalists from Bastar and parts of Chhattisgarh will march through Maoist stronghold Abujhmaad on a three-day long ‘Media Swatantrata Padyatra’.
On Sunday, over 50 journalists reached Orchha in Narayanpur district (one of the entry points to Abujhmaad) and will begin their march on Monday morning. The march will culminate in Kutru block of Bijapur district on January 30 — the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.
For three days, the journalists will walk through hilly forest land that has no administrative presence and whose geography and coordinates few of them are aware of. They will travel around 15-20 km everyday with halts at Ader Jatlur and Lanka.
The police have advised them to cancel the trip due to the Maoists threat, but the journalists have remained adamant.
“Naxals are torturing Bastar journalists for frivolous reasons. This killing (of Reddy) has crossed all limits. We have undertaken this Pad Yatra through their den to tell them that our pen would not surrender before their gun. We appeal to the journalists of across the country to support us,” Bastar Journalist Association chief S Karimuddin told The Indian Express.
Maoists had said that Reddy was killed as he was a police informer, an accusation journalists quickly junked noting that he had always opposed police atrocities. Ironically, Reddy was also jailed under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act for being a Maoist informer.
The journalists could not be contacted on Sunday as they were already out of contactable range. Their Facebook pages were, however, full of messages and photographs.
“Bye friends, will now meet on Gandhiji’s martyrdom day,” wrote Kamal Shukla, one of the organisers.
Another organiser wrote: “It’s a courageous step, through a land no one knows. It cannot be predicted either what may befall these Padyatris on the way. It’s still not certain if this journey will be completed, but this journey knows its aims and it can be said with certitude that it would successfully deliver its strong message in the forest.”