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Orissa journalist languishes in jail for alleged Maoist link

Posted by Admin on November 20, 2009

Eight weeks ago, Laxman Choudhury, a stringer with a vernacular newspaper in Mohana block of Gajapati district, was called to the local police station by a police inspector. Choudhury, 40, reporter of Oriya daily Sambad, did not suspect anything foul when he was called to the police station on September 20 morning. The moment he arrived there he was curtly told he was under arrest for his links with CPI(Maoist). Before he could react, the police allegedly made him confess his “crime” and sign on blank papers.

“He was totally disoriented by the turn of events at the police station. He just did not know how to react,” recounted Minati, his wife who is now struggling to make ends meet.

Among the charges, Section 120 (B) deals with criminal conspiracy and Section 124(A) deals with sedition and it has denied freedom to Choudhury till now. Section 124 of the IPC, framed by the British, describes “sedition” as attempts to bring hatred or contempt towards the government by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation. Sedition is punishable with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may be extended to three years to which fine may be added.

His colleagues and wife say Choudhury is a victim of an act of revenge by the local police who were alarmed by his writing on the alleged police-narcotic mafia connection.

Fellow journalist in Mohana Rupesh Sahu said Choudhury was threatened by the inspector of Mohana police station who said that he would “fix” him for writing about his connection with the ganja mafia of the area. “The police action was a case of vendetta,” said Sahu.

Choudhury continues to languish behind bars in a cell of R Udaygiri jail in Gajapati as two courts threw out his bail applications. Even a string of media protests in Bhubaneswar and Gajapati and appeals by Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers have failed to move anyone. Assurances by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on withdrawal of charges have failed to change anything.

DIG (Southern Range) R P Koche, who was asked by the CM to probe into the alleged charges of sedition against Choudhury, said he would not comment as the matter was now sub-judice. Though the CM had asked Principal Secretary to take steps for immediate withdrawal of charges, a section of the Orissa Police scuppered the move.

After repeatedly being rejected in lower courts, the petition for Choudhury’s bail has now reached the Orissa High Court, but lawyers say the case may linger as the Orissa Police have written “Maoist case” in red ink over the case file. “Though we expect the High Court to take up the case at the earliest, the police branding Choudhury as a Maoist sympathiser may delay his bail,” said a High Court lawyer.

His wife, a teaching assistant in the primary section of a local Saraswati Shishu Mandir, said, “Journalists of Bhubaneswar as well as Sambad have helped me financially. But I don’t know how long can I go on like this.”

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