Journalist reporting on under-represented communities arrested

Journalist reporting on under-represented communities arrested

Prashant Rahi, a senior Journalist of Uttarakhand, with over 17 years of service to his `credit, has been reporting on under-represented communities and pro-people’s movements in the state, was slapped with serious charges of Indian Penal Code (IPC) including Sections 121, 121A, 124A, 153B and 120B.

Prashant began his journalist career with The Himachal Times and then later moved to The Statesman. He hails from Maharashtra and studied at Banaras Hindu University.

Earlier he was arrested on 15 December 2007 in the state capital Dehradun, and remained in ‘secret confinement’ by police for five days. Later on 21 December 2007, police officially booked him as a ‘maoist commander’ and showed him arrested from the forests of Hanspur Khatta.

Earlier too police administration has slapped serious charges against journalists reporting voices of under-represented communities in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Another example of police suppressing local pro-people voices is of Dr Binayak Sen. There was an international furore from Indian expatriate community and also within India against the unlawful imprisonment by the state since 14 May 2007 of Dr Sen. Dr Sen is the General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh’s People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and also the Vice-President of the National PUCL. Dr Sen has been a tireless crusader working towards an alternative health system responsive to the needs of the poor. He is a committed people's rights activist, and has been struggling to protect the rights and liberties of tribal people in Chattisgarh. His arrest by the state on 14 May 2007 had left countless activists and communities stunned.

"Prashant Sen should be immediately released unconditionally by the state" said noted social activist and Magsaysay Awardee (2002) Dr Sandeep Pandey, who is a national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). "Prashant Sen has made commendable contribution in documenting the voices of the most under-represented communities in the past 17 years now, and has brought hope and empowerment to these communities by strengthening their voices to safeguard their rights and civil liberties" remarked Dr Pandey.

Another Delhi-based activist Rajeshwar Ojha believes that “Prashant’s arrest is a part of the efforts of various state governments to secure hefty amount of funds from the central government in the name of combating naxalism. For this, it becomes imperative for them to prove that the state is inflicted with this insurgency.”

On Thursday, 27 December 2007, a large demonstration was held in front of Mandi House, New Delhi, demanding immediate and unconditional release of Prashant Sen.

Repeated arrests of those supporting voices of most under-served communities, also puts a question mark on our democracy where such voices of pro-poor activists are stifled by the state in one of the most outrageous manner. Hope the vanguards of justice are listening.

Published in:

Asian Tribune, Bangkok, Thailand: 29 December 2007

The Seoul Times, Seoul, South Korea: 1 January 2008