The Ravi Belagere supari case might be an instance of priorities gone wrong, and we must give room for that possibility.

Ravi Belagere arrest Its not ALWAYS an assault on freedom of pressSunil Heggaravalli and Ravi Belagere. Courtesy: Facebook
Voices Opinion Sunday, December 10, 2017 - 17:30
Written by  Preethi Nagaraj

We are living in strange times. And being a member of the media can leave one in a very tricky position. There are occasions when you have to say things anyway because you know them from more than surface level, notwithstanding the assumingly ‘searing’ half-baked questions that could have been dismissed on other occasions as mere rants, mostly on whatsapp groups of friends and relatives. You chin up, and wonder: Has any other profession been this mired in muck in recent times as much as media has been maligned? Yes, there could be a few rotten apples, and compromised agendas; but how does everyone get painted with the same brush? Whatever happened to discretionary intelligence?

But then, like I said, so be it. It’s a phase. This too shall pass, we’d like to think. But in this melee, a lot of stray incidents are being misconstrued in the hurry to arrive at a ‘big picture’.

For instance, the recent arrest of an editor of a famed Kannada tabloid – Ravi Belagere of Hi Bangalore – by the City Crime Branch for allegedly plotting his colleague’s murder and giving a ‘supari’ to a contract sharp shooter to complete the job.

Sunil Heggaravalli, a reporter who worked with Ravi Belagere for almost a decade and half, is the man who was supposed to be dead, had the killer finished his job for Rs 30 lakh, with an advance of Rs 15,000 already paid. The weapons and bullets were allegedly provided by Ravi himself.

How did the fact of ‘giving supari’ for killing come out in the open? In a routine investigation involving sharp shooters across the state, especially from north Karnataka, the police were grilling a person called Shashidhar Mundewadi, who reportedly spilled the beans on this crime that was about to happen.

According to the police, Sunil’s life was saved by a whisker – not because the job was complicated, but because the shooter ‘postponed’ the job, and decided to do it in a month.

There are many versions that are doing rounds, and all have very grey areas that probably cops will be able to fill or answer.

But these are facts that are in the public domain: For a while now, Ravi has been accusing his wife, Yashomathy, of having an affair with Sunil – whom he has now allegedly tried to eliminate.

Yashomathy is Ravi’s second wife. His first wife, Lalita, is a school teacher and she and her three children distanced themselves from the editor after he decided to marry Yashomathy. And when the second relationship soured, Ravi made several Facebook posts accusing Yashomathy of cheating on him, and used very derogatory language while doing so.

Did this anger and resentment lead Ravi Belagere to put a price on his wife’s alleged lover’s head? That’s for the police to investigate and find out.

The question here is not about how and why. The core issue here is: Is this an attack on freedom of the press?

Well, for obvious reasons, the answer a big NO. We cannot conclude so, at least not yet.

In the wake of recent incidents such as Gauri Lankesh’s murder and the attack on journalists and minorities across the country, we may be tempted to look at this with a lofty perspective. The arrest may even fit in with the slowly building popular narrative.

But in my opinion, this could be a plain case of priorities gone wrong, and we must make room for that possibility.

When the news of Ravi’s arrest broke out, a ‘liberal’ (read sickular, libtard in popular lingo) friend asked ‘What’s this? Is this a plot to silence the media?’ I had to explain to him that tabloids anywhere in the world enjoy more freedom than mainstream media in their approach to news and its coverage.

Hi Bangalore was started in 1995 by Ravi, and garnered a mass reader-base and support within a short period of time. With his roots in Bellary, Ravi, who moved to Bengaluru had worked with Lankesh, slain journalist Gauri’s father, at his popular tabloid Lankesh Patrike, among a lot of other places.

His humble background, his school teacher mother being sheltered by writer-philosopher-yogi Belagere Krishnashastry, and his inimitable writing style attracted readers from all categories to his paper, that rose to dizzying heights. He had all the trappings of a successful journalist who wrote about the underworld and lived a good part of those stories too. He was among the most successful journalists, who got fame, money and affection of people only based on his writings. Integrity is another issue altogether.

In the course of time, Ravi made as many friends as enemies. There are some who trust he will come clean, and some who are rejoicing his arrest.

It could be an irony of time that Ravi, who broke away from Lankesh and rose to be a star in the world of Kannada tabloid journalism, had to be arrested in the course of investigating Lankesh’s daughter’s murder.

Ravi Belagere wrote extensively on underworld. His enticing language, the presentation and the new grammar he introduced into Kannada journalism were beyond a huge success. Today, when the pictures of the frail man in police custody are circulated, one would wonder why he turned out to be just one of those crime stories he had written about many times over. There are reports suggesting he is refusing the charges. All one can hope in such times is for justice to prevail before it is too late.

Views expressed are the author's own.