News-gatherers became the newsmakers on Monday when hundreds of journalists, photographers and camera-persons hit the streets here in protest against the brutal killing of senior crime journalist J.Dey.
The protest in Mumbai organised by the Patrakar Halla Virodhi Kruti Samiti (Committee against attacks on journalists) mainly raised four demands: the investigation of J. Dey's killing should be done by the CBI; an ordinance making attack on journalists a non-bailable offence should be immediately issued; the Home Minister should be asked to resign; and the Commissioner of Police should be transferred.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan refused to accept the demands. He told a delegation of journalists that the Mumbai Police investigation was on the right track and it would not be right to transfer the case to the CBI at this point. Mr. Chavan assured the reporters that the Mumbai police would make a breakthrough within two days.
“We are not happy with what the Chief Minister has told us. We have asked for an appointment with the Prime Minister, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and [Union Home Minister] P.Chidambaram. We will take this issue to Delhi. We are hopeful that we will get justice there,” Prafulla Marpakwar, senior journalist and member of the delegation that met Mr. Chavan, told the reporters.
The protesters marched from the Press Club to Mantralay, braving the rain. “This is the time we have to stand together. It is my weekly off today. But I want to register my protest,” Sachin Vaidya, a photographer with a local newspaper told The Hindu.
It was the first time that the journalists were allowed to carry the protest march till Mantralay. “Protests are generally not allowed outside Azad maidan. Even if protests are conducted outside the ground, protesters are generally not allowed to come to Mantralay,” a senior reporter said.
Agitation from June 15
The journalists have decided to start a State-wide agitation on June 15. “Even reporters from Goa have expressed their solidarity and they will join us,” Prasad Mokashi, president, Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, said after the meeting with Mr. Chavan. “We will also approach the Bombay High Court next week if need be,” he said.
“The Chief Minister has told us that a draft of the bill [making attacks on journalists a non-bailable offence] will be presented in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday [June 15] and that they will try to pass the legislation in the coming Assembly session,” S.N. Deshmukh, Secretary of the Samiti, told fellow reporters.
“The CM said that the police investigation is on the right track, but we are against it. If the same officials against whom J. Dey gave Anti-Corruption Bureau report last month are involved, how can we expect justice?” said Jatin Desai, senior journalist. “We do not believe in police or C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department) investigation,” he said. The demand for a CBI investigation came up only because of the suspicion surrounding some police elements as well.
But a section of the reporters said that if the crime was related to the Mumbai underworld, then the city police would have the best idea about it. “The kind of grip the Mumbai police has over the underworld here… the CBI will not know that much. Let us give them two days if they have asked for that time,” a senior crime reporter said.
Angry reporters kept shouting slogans in the Mantralay campus after the Chief Minister refused to accept their demands. “We want justice. We want CBI inquiry,” they shouted, as the delegation members tried to pacify them.
In Parner, Ahmednagar, social activist Anna Hazare too expressed solidarity with the cause after a few local protesting journalists met him there. He said perpetrators of the crime should be immediately brought to justice. He expressed support for a stringent legislation to prevent attacks on journalists. He said he would talk to the Chief Minister about it.