If we believe Media is the fourth pillar of Democracy, journalists should be provided security and all the facilities that others of three estates (legislative, executive and judiciary) used to enjoy. However, the Constitution of India has not mentioned this term ‘Fourth Pillar’ anywhere. Yet, Media plays a vital role to take the country forward under Article 19 (1) A that guarantees the Freedom of speech and expression to the citizens of India. How far the journalists will do their duties effectively without protection and security? How the watchdogs can be saved from the torture of Maoists and police? The recent killing of a Chhattisgarh journalist questions the nature of journalism practised in rural India particularly in Maoist belt where media used to become the target of both red rebels and police.
Nemichand Jain, a local journalist of Chhattisgarh, was allegedly killed by Maoists on February 12 for being a police informer. He was stabbed to death at Leda village of Sukma district while returning his home from a local market. The pamphlets found from the death site indicated that red rebels were behind the death. However, the alleged involvement of local rivals and police could not be ignored in the case.
Jain was known for reporting the local issues in the village for the last 20 years. Like other journalists, he had also taken the charge of circulation/distribution of some newspapers in the area. He drew the attention of local mafia after he exposed the tin smugglers in the area. Even he had confrontation with the sons of a tin smuggler a few days before his killing. The entire episode also suggested that he was the target of local contractors and smugglers.
According to some journalists of that area, the pamphlets recovered from the death site may confirm Maoists’ hand, but police claim appeared to be false as the colour used for pamphlets was not red and that was written in a different style. The pamphlets were allegedly issued by the Kate Kalyan area committee, a part of the Darba divisional committee of the Maoists. However, they denied their involvement in the killing of Jain.
Later, the Kanger Ghati area committee claimed the responsibility for the death of the journalist describing him as a ‘spy’. However, the multiple pamphlets issued by the Maoists’ different wings raised suspicion over the matter. Chhattisgarh Union of Working Journalists suspected police behind the killing of Jain. It can be noted that the red rebels had never killed any media person in Chhattisgarh. Even Jain had not received any death threat from Maoists. He was known for covering the stories on Maoists’ campaign and reporting their statements.
However, some local reports suggested that Jain could have been the victim of Maoists’ anger after he became the instrumental in releasing an innocent person from the custody of red rebels a week before his death. Jain was known as a local social activist more than a journalist. Maoists’ allegation may be false as he had reported about red rebels highlighting their struggle. The conflicting zone has earlier witnessed many stories that revealed police action that had led to violence. The journos have been very often targeted by police for highlighting local issues in the past.
The murder still remained a mystery even after police claims. A fair probe needs to be conducted into the case and failure of police to ensure the safety of journalists in the Maoist-hit area.