And donâ€™t the states dare say it was a mistake or a misunderstanding. In the attack on Malini Subramaniam, journalist reporting from Bastar for the website Scroll, the thugs in Chattisgarh threatened her with dire consequences if she showed the police in poor light. Worse, they gathered outside her house, called out death threats and stoned her car. Her fault? She was reporting on police brutalities in the region and threats to her have been live for the past month from an organisation claiming to rid Naxalites from the state.
Equally ugly has been the attack in Shamli Uttar Pradesh (UP) on Times Now correspondents reporting on the death of an eight year-old child following celebratory shooting in the air. The reporters arrived on the scene of the crime to speak to the parents of the deceased child. The channelâ€™s camera person was manhandled, his camera was taken away, he was asked to delete what he had filmed and held hostage in the lawless state of Uttar Pradesh whose Chief Minister once said it was okay for boys to rape as boys will be boys. The journalist was pushed, shoved and threatened for showing up at the venue. The reporters remained within the limits of their remit â€“ they were neither trespassing any private property nor were they profiling a non-event.
The state is an accomplice and a mute witness in both cases. These types of attacks cannot happen without people who carry them out not knowing they are safe and sound to raise hell and fury for journalists. It is not for mobs to decide who is a good or a bad journalist. It is not for mobs to snatch our working tools. It is our job to report what we think people must know.
We saw what happened last week in Bengaluru when a mob vented its ire on a Tanzanian student attacking her for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Dadri and Malda were not stray incidents either. They were state sponsored mayhem. A state that muzzles carriers of free voice is not far from muzzling all voices â€“ all voices. A state that is afraid of interacting with journalists irrespective of our perspectives and bias is a failed state
Rape, murder, looting, arson and random violence are no longer random in Uttar PRadesh. They are a daily occurrence and the state is incapable of taking any action. These are bad signs for a democracy.
There have been other incidents in the recent past. Journalists in Indiaâ€™s large vernacular media have been threatened, manhandled and spat on. Yes, we make mistakes, sometimes what we report may not be accurate, but violence is the route of cowards.
We can expect much the same from politicians in UP or Chattisgarh. The law will take its course, the guilty will be punished, no one however high will be spared, an enquiry has already been ordered by the Chief Minister, etc. In Chattisgarh, the threat is deeper as it is organised and targeted. The journalist has identified people who threatened her. What is the government waiting for?
This is also time for all of us in the media to stand behind our colleagues in a show of solidarity. This is the time for us to show that Indian media is amongst the best in the world and an attack on one of us means an attack on all of us. Failing this, the state will get away. And we would have allowed it to do so.