Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Naveen Patnaik’s regime is marked for increasing attacks on Press by political hoodlums, economic offenders and police. This time, Rajat Ranjan Das of Sambad, Orissa’s most circulated daily that has been exposing the current phase of misrule, has been mortally attacked by Sk. Babu, a chum of the Chief Minister. He heads the Notiified Area Council (NAC), Pipili on the eastern boundary of the capital city of Orissa.
Babu and his gang, named in the FIR registered in Police case No.20/11 under Sections 143/341/294/323/325/379/506/149 IPC, brutally attacked Das on the Nimapada square on 4 February 2011. He was looted of the cash and jewelry under his possession and a fellow journalist, Pratap Barik of Anupam Bharat and Sambad hawker Niladri Bihari Mohaptra, who tried to protect Das were also attacked.
Babu and his gang were determined to kill Das, as to them, he had exposed in the Sambad the corrupt practices going on in the NAC. In an attempt to murder him, they threw the bleeding and flummoxed Das on the road so that he could be crushed under any vehicle and resultant death would appear like an accident.
But accidentally, exactly at that time, Dhirendra Samantray, President of Siddheswar Merchants Federation, was coming from the market square to Nimapara square. On seeing him, the gang fled away.
Samantaray rescued Das and brought him to Pipili Government Hospital where his condition took a turn from bad to worse. He has been shifted from there to the Capital Hospital.
But the police has not yet arrested the kingpin of the crime, Babu, who left untouched, is trying to tamper with evidences, as reports from the locality suggest.
Media Unity for Freedom of Press has strongly condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with Das. The MUFP has expressed shock over police inaction against the concerned criminals and has praised Barik and Mohapatra for their attempt to protect Das from the miscreants. The MUFP also has thanked Samantray for having rescued Das from the grip of death.
MUFP has umpteen times met the Chief Minister in his official chamber and apprised him of details of attacks on media-persons in Orissa. But his assurance to take action against the attackers and their instigators have never proceeded beyond his meretricious lips. So this time, MUFP preferred to publicly condemn the atrocity under the Freedom Tree, before the State Information Center (arbitrarily changed into Jaydev Bhawan by a confused government), Around a hundred journalists representing all segments of media beyond union boundaries gathered under the Tree that now stands identified with the journalists’ attempt to protect the Press Freedom.
MUFP is set to have a symposium soon at Bhubaneswar on the them of threat to freedom of press from the government itself.