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  Asia-Pacific
Manipur Asks for CBI Probe into Scribe's Killing
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
Manipur asks for CBI probe into scribe's killing.

The journalists of Manipur in Northeast India have been assured of a high level probe against the killing of a fellow Meitei scribe. The Manipur government had lately decided to ask for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe to identify the killers of Konsam Rishikanta. A trainee sub-editor of The Imphal Free Press, an English daily of the State, Rishikanta, 22 was shot dead by miscreants in the State capital, Imphal on November 17.

The cabinet of Okram Ibobi Singh government had finally decided to hand over the case to CBI, as it was rigorously demanded by the agitating journalists. In fact, the entire media persons of the State under the banner of All Manipur Working Journalists' Union (AMWJU) took the path of agitation demanding justice. They even went for the strike for more than a week, when all local newspapers and television
channels did not hit the stand and went out of air.

"For full 11 days under the banner of AMWJU, the fraternity went on a cease work strike until finally the government relented and decided to hand over the case to the CBI, in a cabinet decision," reported The Imphal Free Press. Earlier the agitating journalists met the chief minister O. Ibobi Singh. Mentionable that, the trouble torn Manipur has lost five editor-journalists to miscreants' attack since 1993.

They also took out a protest rally on November 26, where thousands join them demanding prompt actions against the culprits. The month of November also witnessed the killing of an Assamese scribe too.

Jagajit Saikia, a correspondent for Amar Asom, a leading Assamese daily published from Guwahati. Shot at and killed in broad day light on November 22 at Kokrajhar, the head quarter of Bodoland Territorial (Autonomous District) Council in lower Assam. Jagajit, 30, left behind his wife, a minor daughter and his parents.

The media persons in Assam condemned the killings in strongest words and engaged national and international media bodies for pursuing the investigation and security for the working journalists in the region.

More over, Assam journalists sent a memorandum to the Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil asking her intervention on the process. The memorandum revealed that at least 20 editor-journalists were killed in

Assam during the last 17 years and surprisingly enough not a single perpetrator of these heinous crimes was booked under the law.

The journalists' body also organised a massive protest rally on the premises of Guwahati Press Club on November 25, which was addressed by Kanaksen Deka (editor of Dainik Agradoot and President of Asom Sahitya Sabha), Ajit Kumar Bhuyan (editor of Asomiya Pratidin), Adip Kumar Phukan (editor of Edinar Sangbad), GL Agarwala (editor of Purbanchal
Prahari and owner of Amar Asom), Prashanta Rajguru (executive editor of Amar Asom), Dileep Chandan (editor of Asom Bani), Hiten Mahanta (senior journalist) with many others.

Soon after the meeting, which was presided over by Bhupen Bhattacharya (editor of Asomiya Purboday), hundreds scribes and other attendants joined in a procession to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro) to hand over the memorandum to the President. But shockingly the DC did not come out to receive it, which annoyed the journalists and tempted to stage a brief demonstration in front his office. Later the memorandum, signed by the president Sanjib Phukan and secretary Prakash Mahanta of the organization, was sent directly to the office of the President.

The Editors Guild of India also expressed shock at the killing of scribes in Manipur and Assam and appealed the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 'to take personal interest in the situation' and if necessary, order a CBI investigation into the murder of journalists.

The national forum of editors in a statement said, "The Editors Guild has noted with increasing dismay the spate of violent incidents involving journalists in the north-east and has brought this to the notice of the union home ministry. We hope that concerted action will be taken to ensure the safety and security of journalists."

The Guild president, Rajdeep Sardesai later personally met the Prime Minister to apprise him about the situation in Northeast. Rajdeep, also the editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, while talking to this writer, informed that Prime Minister Singh expressed concern over the recent killings of journalists and asked both the chief ministers of Assam and Manipur for prompt investigation into the incidents. He also
recommended for adequate measures to ensure the security and safety of all journalists and newsmen in the region, Rajdeep added.

The Paris based media rights body, Reporters Without Borders too expressed shock at the assassination and asked 'the authorities in New Delhi to order the Central Bureau of Investigation to carry out an exhaustive investigation to determine the motives and arrest those responsible.' The rights body also argued that the security situation is very worrying in the Northeast and it can not be acceptable that journalists should be made to pay for refusing to relay propaganda for the different parties to a conflict. This latest murder must not go unpunished, it asserted.

Similarly the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists mourned the loss of Jagajit. The CPJ's Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz, while raising voice for 'thoroughly and transparently' investigating
Jagajit's killing, also added, "Local governments in India's northeast should make journalists' security a priority to enable publication of essential news about local conflicts."

"It has been a grim year for journalists across the world. So far in 2008, at least 36 journalists have been murdered and another 17 are missing or unconfirmed as to whether they died on the job. Across Asia, two each were killed in Thailand, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, four in Pakistan and at least three in India," CPJ reported.

International Federation of Journalists, Journalists' Forum, Assam, All Assam Photo Journalists Association, Assam Press Correspondents' Union, North East Media Forum, a body of New Delhi-based Northeastern journalists with a number of journalists organizations, eastern India based press club bodies namely Kolkata Press Club, Sikkim Press Club,
Manipur Press Club, Agartala Press Club, Shillong Press Club, Itanagar Press Club with student organizations, civil society groups and various political parties also condemned the killing and demanded punishments to the perpetrators.

Finding himself in an awkward position, the Assam chief minister (also in charge of State Home portfolio) Tarun Gogoi announced an ex-gratia grant of Rupees three hundred thousand for the family of Jagajit after three days of the incident. Gogoi also assured that the government would take the responsibility of Jagajit´s daughter. The chief minister also declared that the culprits would be arrested and appropriate punishment would be given to them.



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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at navathakuria@gmail.com

 

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