|Four of the accused in the molestation case at Bhangagarh police station in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos
July 17: The editor-in-chief of News Live, Atanu Bhuyan, today resigned to “facilitate fair investigation” while KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi said the telecast of the July 9 molestation was a political conspiracy hatched by the television news channel to show the state government headed by chief minister Tarun Gogoi in a poor light.
Though he resigned, Bhuyan stood by reporter Gaurav Jyoti Neog for filming the incident. “As a reporter it was his duty to record the incident which he did,” he said.
He said he was amazed at the chief minister’s criticism of Neog for not informing police and in continuing to film the incident.
He expressed doubt whether an impartial probe of the incident would be possible. “Now the police may think that Gogoi is in support of arresting Gaurav,” he said. “After Gogoi’s stand, I think the administration will put pressure on my management to force me to resign. Before facing such a situation, I have decided to resign.”
Dismissing Bhuyan’s fears, the chief minister said, “It is absolutely false. Why should he be apprehensive and I don’t talk to management. Have I ever put pressure on any media in my over 11 years as chief minister despite so many adverse reports against me? What type of a journalist is he? He does not have the guts,” Gogoi said.
The chief minister late tonight told NDTV that he was ready to apologise to the victim.
Praising the nationwide discussions on the role of media in such situations in the wake of the incident, Gogoi said the media should discharge its duty but it also has a social responsibility. “The media has the right to expose the government but you can’t go on filming for TRPs alone,” he said.
|Atanu Bhuyan. Picture by UB Photos
He expressed concern over the media projecting Assam as uncivilised over the molestation case but praised senior journalist Mukul Kalita, who had tried to protect the victim.
Admitting that it was an inadvertent mistake on the part of his office to release the photograph of the victim, he said,“We immediately stopped its publication.”
Bhuyan said besides submitting the footage of the July 9 incident to the police, the news channel also gave it to Assam Public Works, an NGO. He added that Akhil Gogoi had got the footage from the news channel. He admitted uploading the news item with the footage of molestation on YouTube, which was downloaded 26,000 times the next day.
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi welcomed Bhuyan’s resignation and demanded that the television channel’s managing editor Zarir Hussain must also quit since he was equally involved in highlighting the incident. “Hussain should have resigned first since he had been defending the channel’s reporter for shooting the molestation,” he said.
Akhil said the KMSS had strong reasons to believe that news channel had deliberately tried to draw the attention of the national media to highlight the molestation case to prove the point that law and order in Assam had completely broken down.
“Bhuyan has himself admitted that the video with the molestation footage was uploaded on YouTube by his channel. We have strong suspicions that a leading national television channel, whose editor-in-chief maintains close relations with minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, highlighted the molestation with a political motive. The KMSS has demanded that the inquiry into molestation of the girl must also find out the political agenda behind the incident,” Akhil said.
The KMSS leader went to the extent of saying that the chief minister had understood the political game plan and had thus decided to conduct a CID inquiry into the incident.
He said the incident shows how media houses are increasingly under the influence and ownership of politicians and being used to gain political mileage in the state.
The chief minister, who has been critical of Akhil in the past, was today circumspect in reacting to Akhil’s claims.
“I will not comment till the genuineness of the tape is proved. And I don’t know about any conspiracy to destabilise me. Nobody can destabilise me. Who has the guts to destabilise me? Anybody disturbing me will be more disturbed,” he said.
He said the chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Mamata Sharma, would arrive here tomorrow to inquire about the incident.
In New Delhi, Sharma said the report on the Guwahati molestation case was sent to the women and child development ministry today.
Sharma, who is scheduled to meet Gogoi tomorrow, said the contents of the report would be revealed to the media only after the ministry goes through it.
The All Tai Ahom Students Union today said the manner in which the incident was telecast smacked of political conspiracy against Gogoi.