regular-article-logo Saturday, 10 June 2023

Ask no questions: How risky journalism is in Uttar Pradesh

This is a horrible situation that journalists are facing in the state: Moradabad Ujala editor

Piyush Srivastava Lucknow Published 15.03.23, 03:54 AM
Footage shows reporter Sanjay Rana in handcuffs that are tied to a rope held by a policeman.

Footage shows reporter Sanjay Rana in handcuffs that are tied to a rope held by a policeman. Sourced by The Telegraph

A journalist has been arrested a day after he had questioned Uttar Pradesh education minister Gulab Devi about her unfulfilled election promises during a government event in her constituency.

“While beating me (at the police station), the policemen said they would teach me a lesson for questioning the minister,” Sanjay Rana, 22, a reporter with a Moradabad-based Hindi newspaper, told The Telegraph on Tuesday. Arrested on Sunday, he had obtained bail on Monday.


Rana said he had approached the minister when she visited his home village of Buddhnagar, which falls in her Assembly constituency of Chandausi in Sambhal district, on Saturday afternoon. “The police arrested me the day after, thrashed me and held me in Baniyather police station,” he said.

“They brought me to Kotwali police station in Chandausi town on Monday and produced me before a court, where I got bail. I had not posed any uncomfortable questions to the minister; still she got furious and asked a local BJP leader to file a case against me.” He added: “I don’t fear anybody as I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Dharmendra Singh, editor of Moradabad Ujala, which employs Rana as its Chandausi correspondent, told this newspaper: “This is a horrible situation that journalists are facing in the state. They cannot even ask questions of ministers.”

A video circulating on social media shows the minister and her team seated behind tables under a canopy while Rana and a crowd of people stand in front of the tables.

Rana purportedly asks the minister about her poll promises while some people around him appear to be gesticulating to dissuade him. “There is no marriage hall here and no government-built toilet. The road between the temple and this place is rutted,” Rana appears to say.

“You had also said you would build a boundary wall around the temple of Devi Ma but you didn’t.” A woman’s voice — not the minister’s but apparently of someone from her side of the tables — is heard asking the reporter: “Are you publicising yourself or doing social work?”

The same woman appears to address the crowd: “How many of you agree with it (the reporter’s stand)?” Rana takes up the challenge and appears to address the same question to the crowd. Someone answers: “We agree with you.”

Gulab Devi then purportedly tells Rana that “my eyes had recognised you from the time you stood outside (the canopy)”, suggesting she had marked him out as a troublemaker from the outset. “Whatever you are saying is true,” she purportedly adds. “These are my villages. Kundanpur is mine and Buddhnagar is also mine. There is still time. Whatever you said will be done.” The video does not show the minister asking anyone to file a case against Rana. In another video, apparently shot a day later, the police are seen leading a handcuffed Rana away.

A police officer told reporters on the condition of anonymity: “Rana has been booked on the complaint of a BJP leader for voluntarily causing hurt (IPC 323), intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace (IPC 504) and criminal intimidation (IPC 506).”

If convicted, Rana can be jailed for up to two years. Gulab Devi refused to talk to reporters during a visit to Sambhal town on Tuesday. Shubham Raghav, district general secretary of BJP youth wing BJYM, acknowledged that he had filed the complaint against Rana with Kotwali police station in Chandausi town, 10km from Buddhnagar.

“He (Rana) is a fake journalist. He was with four goons and all of them were drunk. He slapped me when I asked him to behave himself in front of the minister,” Raghav told reporters. “The minister didn’t ask me to file the complaint, I did it on my own because I am the victim.” Singh, Rana’s editor, said: “Gulab Devi had claimed on Saturday that she had done development projects worth Rs 75 lakh in Buddhnagar and Sanjay had asked her to identify the projects.

“A citizen can ask a public representative to explain what they have done. But the minister’s man, whom Sanjay had never met in his life, filed a complaint saying he had been attacked and intimidated.

“I have video-recorded statements of villagers who said Sanjay had asked genuine questions. They said the police beat Sanjay in the village before taking him to the police station.”

Singh asked why Kotwali police had taken Rana to a different police station, Baniyather, 6km from Buddhnagar, and held him there overnight. He said this had caused Rana’s whereabouts to remain unknown to his friends till Monday.

Follow us on: