Embattled Lines

A few journalists in Chhattisgarh persevere in the face of extraordinary pressure

01 February 2017
The family of Santosh Yadav has struggled to make ends meet since his arrest in 2015. Like a few other Chhattisgarh journalists, Yadav worked in the face of coercion and intimidation from the state’s police.
indian express archive
The family of Santosh Yadav has struggled to make ends meet since his arrest in 2015. Like a few other Chhattisgarh journalists, Yadav worked in the face of coercion and intimidation from the state’s police.
indian express archive

Yeh raat mein sapna dekh raha tha sarkar ke khilaaf,” Kamal Shukla, a veteran reporter said. I was travelling with him for a few days in Bastar, in December, and Shukla was describing the dire conditions journalists work under in the district. “If the police claimed this about a journalist they had arrested,” he said, “the courts in Chhattisgarh have no right to ask whether the police had proof.”

His younger colleague, who wanted to remain anonymous, added: “If a journalist were to tell even 5 percent of the truth in a newspaper here, black clouds will begin to gather over the individual’s head, prison gates will creak open, and a gift of jan suraksha will be made to him.”

“Jan suraksha,” or, more properly, the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam, also known as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, refers to a piece of legislation passed by the state assembly in 2005. It allows the police to detain anyone who displays a “tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law.” This is the legislation that Shukla was talking about when he said the police has the right to divine one’s dreams and crush dissent. The state of Chhattisgarh has used the legislation to create an atmosphere of fear and repression for journalists, and punish those who dare to stand up to it.

Amitava Kumar is a professor of English at Vassar College in upstate New York, USA. His latest book, The Lovers: A Novel, is forthcoming from Aleph Book Company.

Keywords: Chhattisgarh journalism Bastar journalists SRP Kalluri Santosh Yadav Prabhat Singh Somaru Nag Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act
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