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MP: Six journalists booked for ‘rioting, using criminal force’ against mining officer

District mining officer Sawan Chouhan, in a written application to Kotwali police, stated that on July 1, when he was in his office, the six accused came seeking a comment for a story on illegal sand mining involving two contractors.

The FIR against the six accused was registered on a complaint made by district mining officer Sawan Chouhan.

Six journalists in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district were booked for rioting and using criminal force, among other charges, after they allegedly got into an argument with a district mining officer, police said Monday.

The FIR against the six accused — Asif Khan, Praveen Pal, Wahid Khan, Pawan Kumar Solanki, Pradeep Gangle and Dharmendra Chouhan — was registered on a complaint made by district mining officer Sawan Chouhan.

Chouhan, in a written application to Kotwali police, stated that on July 1, when he was in his office, the six accused came seeking a comment for a story on illegal sand mining involving two contractors.

“Asif Khan along with other journalists began bullying and pressured me into giving a byte. But when I refused, they hurled abuses at me, passed casteist slurs and even threatened to kill me. I found this behaviour highly objectionable and it left me deeply embarrassed,” stated Chouhan in his complaint.

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However, the six accused denied Chouhan’s claims. Speaking to The Indian Express, Pradeep Gangle a journalist associated with web portal Dainik Sach Express, explained that the six had gone to seek Chouhan’s comment for a story based on complaints made by villagers of Kumarkheda, Umarkali and nearby Mohna on increased movement of heavy vehicles loaded with sand.

“We had sought an appointment but when we reached Chouhan’s office, we were asked to wait for 10 minutes. A few minutes after waiting outside his office, Chouhan came out and began leaving. It was then that we asked for a comment as we had been waiting but he responded with harsh words,” said Gangle.

Wahid Khan, associated with News Nation, pointed out that two eyewitnesses mentioned by Chouhan in his FIR — Dinesh Yadav and Amit Bhavsare — are sand mining contractors who indulge in illegal sand mining.

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“Dinesh Yadav holds the post of mahamantri of BJP’s Yuva morcha while Bhavsare is a BJP worker. They were present with Chouhan when we had gone to meet him with regards to a story against illegal sand mining which led to the whole issue. The two were conveniently eyewitnesses in his complaint,” said Wahid.\

When contacted Dinesh Yadav told The Indian Express: “The contract has been given to RK Gupta and company while I am merely overlooking its management at Khargone Nagar. We have been giving full royalties and were marked as ‘good’ by the collector recently. These allegations are completely baseless.”

The six accused, along with Sunil Sharma, president of Khargone Zilla Patrakar Sangh, in a written memorandum stated that the contract for sand mining in Khargone had been given to RK Gupta and Company while that of Khargone Nagar is with Dinesh Yadav and Amit Bhavsare. “The two have been carrying out sand mining using illegal methods which had been consistently opposed by others running sand businesses. A written complaint of the same has been made to the district authorities. It is with regards to covering the same story that the six journalists had come to seek a comment,” stated the memorandum.

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However, according to Pradeep Gangle, they could not hand over the memorandum to the district collector as despite waiting for over two hours, the collector did not meet them.

Minister for Agriculture, Kamal Patel, in a tweet on Monday evening stated that the six journalists have been booked in a wrongful manner. “I have asked the Superintendent of Police to conduct an impartial probe,” stated Patel.

When asked about the allegation made by the journalists, Chouhan said, “The firm has been given a contract and appointed contractors. They visit our office regularly for their regular work. It has nothing to do with the incident and [pertains to] the way the journalist had acted. I have given the byte previously on the subject of illegal mining.”

First published on: 06-07-2021 at 02:06:48 am
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