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Karnataka journalist held in defamation case, handcuffed

The director and chairman of Chitra Publications, B.V. Seetaram, brought in handcuffs to the District Government Hospital in Udupi on Monday.

The director and chairman of Chitra Publications, B.V. Seetaram, brought in handcuffs to the District Government Hospital in Udupi on Monday.  

S. Bageshree

Seetaram says he is being targeted for his stand against Sangh Parivar

Bangalore: “I fear for my life,” B.V. Seetaram, chairman and director of the Chitra group, publisher of the daily Karavali Ale, told The Hindu after his arrest in a two-year-old defamation case in Udupi on Sunday.

Mr. Seetaram, who is also the Editor-in-Chief of the group, was produced handcuffed before court in Udupi on Monday. He declined bail as he feared arrest by the Mangalore police on other charges. “If I am moved to Mangalore jail, I may be harmed by Bajrang Dal elements within the jail,” he said. The court remanded him to judicial custody till January 17.

He said he was being “targeted” in an old case because his newspaper reports, with “principled stand” against the activities of Sangh Parivar organisations, were “embarrassing to the government.”

He said that while pro-government newspapers with defamation cases pending against them were let off by the police and the district administration, his daily was “singularly targeted” for its “criticism of the Bajrang Dal and the police during the recent attacks on churches in Mangalore, and for its stand in support of farmers in the anti-Special Economic Zone agitation.”

Karavali Ale, with a readership of four lakh, has been at the receiving end of a series of legal cases and attacks on its printing facilities and distribution network.

Mr. Seetaram and his wife were arrested in March 2007 on charges of promoting religious hatred through their newspaper columns. Days before the arrest, his office was broken into and computers and files were burnt.

Since November 2008, the publishers of the newspaper have filed several police complaints accusing Sangh Parivar organisations of sabotaging their distribution network, attacking hawkers and burning bundles of the newspaper.

The publishers lodged a complaint with the Press Council of India and wrote to the Superintendent of Police, Mangalore, the Inspector-General of Police (Western Range) and the Director-General of Police, Karnataka, demanding action against the organisations named.

Press Council chairman Justice G.N. Ray wrote in December to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa directing him to take firm steps to address the grievances of Karavali Ale. In a separate letter, the Council also asked for a report from the Chief Secretary on the latest situation.

Home Minister B.V. Acharya, however, denied that Karavali Ale and its editor were being targeted.

He said the “law is taking its own course” and the police took action against him because they felt that “his writings were bordering on yellow journalism and disturbed the peace in the region.”

He alleged that Mr. Seetaram was indulging in “character assassination and blackmailing.”

A.M. Prasad, IGP (Western Range), maintained that Mr. Seetaram was arrested in connection with a “pending non-bailable warrant.” Action was taken on various complaints filed by Mr. Seetaram earlier.

The police arrested more than 15 persons in response to the complaints and provided protection to him and to the newspaper’s vans.

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