'If the Attackers Roam Freely How Can I Function Freely As a Journalist, You Tell Me?'
I am scared of doing my duty now, says Rajen Deka
GUWAHATI: Just after the third phase of polling in Assam, Rajen Deka, a senior journalist working with one of the oldest Assamese newspapers for more than three decades in Nalbari district had a narrow escape. He was attacked by goons allegedly linked to the BJP for a report criticising the state unit of the party. He was left severely injured.
Deka has seven stitches on his head and still recovering from the attack. He said that he is now too scared to carry on his fearless journalism.
In an exclusive interview with The Citizen, Deka shared his thoughts.
Q. How’s your health now?
Deka: It’s very difficult. Besides anything else, I’m deeply hurt by the fact that in a democracy people can be thrashed to death for telling the truth. This is the biggest damage.
Apart from that, I can’t even sleep properly because of the seven stitches on my head. Two of my fingers have been broken. So, you can understand the trauma, I’m going through.
But then why have you been discharged from the hospital so early?
That’s something which I can’t understand. I was shocked to learn that the hospital authorities at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) didn’t wish to keep me for longer whereas I was in need of round the clock medical attention. I had seven stitches on my head, cuts on ear, broken bones and so on…in spite of that, they wanted to discharge me.
The doctors insisted that I will be better at home. I could sense a conspiracy in this.
In your career that spanned more than 30 years’ have you ever faced similar kind of situations before?
Yes. In 2008, during the Congress regime I was beaten up in broad daylight by the goons linked with the then ruling party for exposing a scam where they were involved in Mukalmua in Nalbari district. I had to run to a police station but I was beaten up even inside the police station. I was injured badly during that time as well.
In between, on many occasions people have been offended by my reports and complained.
But I’m happy and quite satisfied to have highlighted the real issues of the public. At least four top officials of the district were transferred as per their punishment following my news report. These are things which keep me motivated along with the love and respect from the people.
Why do you think you were attacked?
Because of the news item which talks about the clash between the Congress and the BJP workers that took place on April 24 during a feast at a local polling booth. It exposed their (BJP) intention to rig the polls.
Was the reaction of the police satisfactory?
Not at all. If they were so sincere, by now the main culprit should have been arrested. Even after 72 hours of the attack and an order from the Chief Minister, nothing much has happened. I’m worried. If this is the attitude of the police, no one can report the truth in the coming days.
Now, do you think you will be able to report fearlessly?
This is the major worry as I just told you. If your attackers are roaming freely and the police haven’t arrested them, how can I go and perform my job? My mother is 87 years of age. She was in shock after that incident. My family members and close friends have been insisting that I should stop doing journalism.
You tell me now…what do I do? Especially after this incident (April 25), I’m really worried. I could have died, the way they attacked me. But will I get justice?
The people who attacked me are known to me. In fact Ripul Deka aka Bapa who hit me with bamboo poles went to my home to threaten my wife and daughters that he would kill me that night.
How do you analysis this situation – the series of attacks on the fourth pillar of democracy?
It’s very sorry state of affairs. I have no words to analyse this. The truth is being suppressed.
What is your appeal to the government?
Exemplary punishment is a must so that similar incidents do not occur.