A day after a journalist in Assam was arrested on charges of extortion and misbehaviour with the wife of a district forest official, the district Superintendent of Police was transferred on Friday and a CID enquiry was announced into the arrest.
Rajib Sharma, a correspondent of DY365 channel in the border district of Dhubri in western Assam, was arrested at 2 am on Thursday from his rented house in Gauripur, where he was staying with his ailing father. The father died hours after Sharma was arrested.
DY365 executive editor Pranjit Saikia told The Indian Express that Sharma reported regularly on the “cow syndicate” in Dhubri, and separately in a tweet, alleged that the police machinery was fully involved in the “cow syndicate” and several forest officials were also “corrupt”.
ADGP (Law and Order) G P Singh visited Dhubri on Friday, and his preliminary findings were to be submitted to the government later that day. He told The Indian Express, “The case has been handed over to the CID. Corruption charges against the forest official would be enquired by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption wing. Allegations against Dhubri police would be looked into by an SIT.”
In the evening, an order issued by the state Home Department stated that Dhubri SP Yuvraj was transferred and posted as commandant of the Assam Police Battalion, Ligiripukhuri, and was replaced by Anand Mishra.
Sharma’s arrest has been criticised by both the ruling BJP and Congress, with the saffron party demanding an enquiry into the cow smuggling syndicate in Dhubri.
On July 15, Dhubri district forest officer Biswajit Roy filed a police complaint, claiming that Sharma had tried to extort Rs 3 lakh from him on July 8, threatening to broadcast a news report of “against him”.
Roy claimed that when his wife asked Sharma the reason for the demand, the journalist “misbehaved with her by using slang language…” The complaint further alleged that Sharma forcibly took Rs 10,000 from Roy after the altercation.
Yuvraj on Thursday night had told The Indian Express that a case was registered against Sharma under IPC Sections 384, 385, 389, 354 and 506. He said Sharma was on interim bail for two days due to the demise of his father.
Sharma, who spoke to local reporters after getting bail on Thursday, said that he was targeted for reporting on the “cow syndicate”. He said he had gone to Roy’s house to take a byte for a story and that it was Roy who tried to bribe him with Rs 10,000 to not carry the report. He said he declined the money offered to him, and that Roy’s wife was not present in the house during his visit.
Yuvraj could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Both the BJP and the Congress criticised Sharma’s arrest and called for an inquiry.
State BJP chief Ranjeet Dass told The Indian Express that a team of party officials led by him met Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday over Sharma’s arrest. Dass condemned the arrest, demanded an enquiry into the cow smuggling syndicate in Dhubri — including looking into the role of top police and forest department officials — and urged the government to curb smuggling of cattle across the border.
Dass said the party has also submitted a memorandum to the state DGP against the Dhubri SP, saying Sharma was not any infamous criminal and he could have been arrested the next morning instead of at 2 am.
Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Tarun Gogoi tweeted, “Arrest of a journalist Rajib Sharma by Dhubri police in the midnight on a false complain by an officer against whom there is charges of corruption as disclosed by Mr Sharma, is most condemnable.”
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