Naveen Soorinje- ‘State is biased against Muslims, Dalits, farmers’


Most people are relieved when they walk out of prison. Naveen Soorinje, a TV journalist bailed last week after four-and-half months in jail, says his incarceration was a blessing. Soorinje, 28, made headlines in July after he videoed vigilantes of an illiberal Hindu sectarian outfit attacking young men and women at a private party in the coastal Mangalore city in Karnataka. The police, however, named him a co-accused in the case and arrested him in November. The son of a small villager farmer, Soorinje has reported extensively on communal and caste violence, police atrocities and organised crime in his ten-year career. Importantly, he has campaigned against corruption in journalism in his city in the last three years. He spoke to Tehelka’sImran Khan after his release on March 23.
Imran Khan

March 25, 2013

Naveen Soorinje. Photo: Ashok KR

How do you feel after spending nearly five months in prison?
My jailing was a gift from the police. It gave me a chance to study another face of theirs. A journalist doesn’t easily get that opportunity. I saw how deeply the communal forces have penetrated the government and the city administration.

What did you experience in the jail?
The biggest learning was that nearly 40 percent of the inmates are Muslims. Most were arrested after communal violence. Some are rotting there for years. I did not meet a single Hindu or Christian arrested for communal violence. The only non-Muslims communalists arrested are the vigilantes for their morality policing, and only those who were exposed in my video although their attacks are an everyday event in Mangalore.

What was your routine in the prison?
We would queue up at 6 am to be counted to make sure no one died overnight. But the famous prisoners didn’t need to. A quick shower and a short walk was allowed at 7.30 am and breakfast at 9.30 am. Often, other prisoners came to me thinking I could help them as a journalist. I wrote out their petitions and complaints. Many inmates had overstayed for months because they couldn’t raise even Rs. 500 to post bail. I helped them borrow money from other inmates.

Why did it take you so long to get bail?
The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the local administration colluded in my case and lied to the court about me. The police claimed I had absconded even though I was at work in the city. This delayed the decision on my bail.

Does your prison experience offer any lessons for journalists?
Journalists should also hear out the accused instead of just being police informers. Our moral obligation and primary duty is to be the informers of the people. It was my video footage alone that led to the vigilantes’ arrest. Journalists should also realise that the police serve their masters in power. Police officers that were secular under a Congress government turned communal when the BJP came to power in 2008. The prison showed me the state’s bias against the minorities, Dalits, farmers and adivasis.

Some 500 people in the Mangalore jail are held on mere suspicion and all are Muslims. A 15-year-old boy was picked off the street because a police officer found him suspicious. He has been in judicial custody for months. Rehman, an 80-year-old qawwali singer who can’t even walk, was arrested because he owned two SIM cards. A Dalit man is in prison for three months because he allegedly stole a bucket, worth Rs. 75, from a Brahmin. Can’t such cases be resolved at the police stations? Most of the time journalists unthinkingly accept press releases from the police and “sentence” the accused.

Are you happy with the support you received from the news media?
I didn’t expect much except from a few friends but I am overwhelmed with the support I got and I am thankful to all. I must, however, say that most journalists in Mangalore didn’t support me for various reasons, including ideological.

What next?
Continue working as a journalist. I plan to write a book based on my experiences in jail. I have many stories to tell.

 

‘Soorinje can’t be allowed to go unless innocents are freed’


STAFF REPORTER, The Hindu

Chief Minister yet to sign order on Soorinje’s release

There was no progress made in reporter Naveen Soorinje’s case at Monday’s Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar.

A resolution to drop the criminal charges against Soorinje of Kasturi Newz24 was passed by the Cabinet during its last meeting on January 31. But the resolution has not yet been signed by Mr. Shettar as a result of which Soorinje continues to be in jail.

While Mr. Shettar once again told journalists that he would sign the Cabinet resolution and facilitate Soorinje’s release, he did not commit to a deadline.

Meanwhile, a senior Minister told reporters after Monday’s Cabinet meeting that there is “pressure” from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the case.

“There is a demand from them [RSS] that the State should also withdraw cases against the other accused in the case,” the Minister said on the condition of anonymity.

Speaking from Mangalore, MLA J. Krishna Palemar said, “There are other innocents in the case. We cannot allow Soorinje’s release unless they too are released.”

Charges

Soorinje has been in jail since November 7, 2012 on the charge of colluding with the Hindu Jagaran Vedike group that attacked boys and girls celebrating a birthday at a homestay in Mangalore on July 28, 2012.

Journalists, who are fighting for Soorinje’s release, have said that Soorinje was a victim of political machinations. It is the official position of the Karnataka Union of Working Journalists as well as the Editors’ Guild of India that Soorinje should have been made a witness in the case as it was footage shot by his cameraman that helped the police identify and arrest the attackers.

 

Is this journalist behind bars because he spoke too often, too loud against communal forces?


Soorinje’s story has been playing out below the radar of national attention

January 24, 2013, Issue 5 Volume 10

IN A week when two national parties have found new helmsmen, a former CM has been convicted to 10 years in jail, another CM has been rapped by his own father for misgovernance, a state government is on the verge of collapse, and a major report on rape laws has been submitted to the home ministry, it might seem a bit odd to devote this column to something else altogether.

But over the past two and a half months, an important story has been playing out below the radar of national attention. It pleads a greater hearing. On 7 November 2012, Naveen Soorinje, a 28-year old reporter working with the Kasturi News 24 channel in Karnataka, was arrested on daunting charges: conspiracy; unlawful assembly; rioting with deadly weapons; criminal trespass; causing grievous hurt; and assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.

Ironically, three months earlier, it was Soorinje’s story that had helped the police book 43 goons from the right-wing Hindu Jagaran Vedike for breaking into a private birthday party in Mangalore and molesting and beating the girls there. Now, in a cruel twist, the police had booked him as the 44th assaulter. In the last week of December, crushingly for Soorinje, the Karnataka High Court struck down some of the charges but still denied him bail. It held him guilty of colluding with the assaulters because he did not inform the police and because, according to the judge’s ruling, he had “encouraged the happening of the incident and assisted in videography of the event, and thereafter facilitated its telecast in television channels, which has caused greater damage to the dignity and reputation of the victims”. Soorinje’s argument that he was outnumbered by the goons and all he could do was record the crime as a journalist has been ignored. He is now waiting to appeal for bail in the Supreme Court.

Soorinje’s story has many disturbing implications for democracy and media freedom. This ruling sets a very dangerous precedent. There have undoubtedly been several cases in the recent past when the media has crossed a grey line and become, in some sense, not a chronicler of events but an uncomfortable magnification. The lumpen moral police, in particular, love the idea of spectacle: they often invite television crews before going on their brute rampage. Should the media report these incidents or should they cut off the vandals’ life breath by refusing to shoot? Should they tip off the police immediately? This must — and should — be subject to an urgent debate. But unless a journalist or media house is accused of actively exacerbating the crime — as in the Guwahati molestation case when the reporter’s role came into serious question — it is outrageous to arrest a journalist on these grounds.

Journalists are sometimes privy to secret information that can make for an exclusive story. It is understandable to expect them to report information of a bomb or a murder plot, a vandal attack or even a potential poaching incident to the police. But if this is stretched further, in the future, can they be arrested for meeting and getting an exclusive interview with a Maoist, insurgent, terrorist or underworld don because they did not tip off the police? Clearly, that would be a frightening absurdity.

In Soorinje’s case, the arguments against him already seem to have seriously skidded off the rails. According to him, he was not tipped off by the goons but by a frightened local he does not want to expose. His call records corroborate that he did not get any call from the goons. He also claims that he did try to call the police — both the Mangalore Police Commissioner (who, it turns out, was out of town) and a local inspector, Ravish Nayak. Neither picked his call or called back. Unfortunately for him, Soorinje’s calls to them, therefore, have not registered in his call records either.

The story gets more darkly ironic because Soorinje, who grew up in an agricultural family, has a track record of exposing the communal forces in Karnataka. According to his peers in the media, it is unthinkable — insupportable — that he would ever be party to such an attack. Many, in fact, suspect his arrest is driven by political vendetta: he was speaking up too often and too loud.

Last week, a small group of journalists went on a hunger strike to protest his arrest. The state home minister promised to intervene. Nothing has happened. The fact that the national media has failed to take up this story of a hinterland peer under assault is only serving to perpetuate the inaction.

Shoma Chaudhury is Managing Editor, Tehelka.
shoma@tehelka.com

 

Indian journalists fight to free jailed reporter who exposed attack on women


 

 

Roy Greenslade

Monday 14 January 2013

guardian.co.uk

 

It might be thought that a journalist responsible for exposing a vicious assault on women would be lionised. In fact, he has been in jail for more than two months.

In July last year, television reporter Naveen Soorinje revealed that a group of Hindu extremists were responsible for an attack on young women at a house party in Mangalore.

His report on Kasturi TV, which included film of the assaults as the women ran into the streets, led to the eventual arrest of 43 people. On 7 November, Soorinje became the 44th person to be detained, provoking outrage among the journalistic community.

Accused of abetting the crime, he faces a range of charges from “rioting with deadly weapons,” criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and using criminal force on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty.

Soorinje, who strenuously denies all charges, claimed his arrest was politically motivated because he had exposed the local administration’s failure to deal properly with cases of so-called “moral policing” and attacks on minority communities by right-wing Hindu groups.

The state of Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and there is a suspicion that there was tacit political support for police to detain the messenger for his unwanted message about extremist behaviour by Hindus.

“Police have no business to arrest him,” said M Saldhana, a retired high court judge and human rights activist in the state capital, Bangalore. “He was just discharging his professional duties. The arrest sends bad signals on how the local police are mixed up with right-wing organisations.”

Television footage – taken by Soorinje and a cameraman with Sahaya TV, Sharan, who was arrested late last week – showed men chasing girls and boys and beating them up. Some of the attackers were seen groping a traumatised girl.

The accused defended the attack by arguing that it was a rave party (and, by implication illegal). But police described it as a birthday party attended by students. No drugs were found.

Though some members of the Karnataka state government initially gave broad assurances that the charges against 28-year-old Soorinje would be dropped, his continued imprisonment led to a three-day hunger strike last weekend by fellow journalists.

Dozens of senior editors, reporters and photographers gathered at Freedom Park in the state capital, Bangalore, to show their support.

One of the demonstrators, HR Ranganath, editor of Public TVtold Coastal Digest: “Through this arrest, the state government is sending a message to the journalist fraternity that they will be punished for anti-establishment reportage.”

And Arvind Narrain, a member of a lawyers’ collective based in Karnataka, told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists: “There is consensus across activists and journalists that Naveen is innocent. He’s one in a million for fearlessly exposing the Hindu right.”

But a Mangalore court denied Soorinje’s request in late November for bail. And a further request was denied on 26 December by the Karnataka high court.

Sources: CPJ/Tehelka.com/BBC/Coastal Digest/DNA India

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Statement of Support for Release Naveen Soorinje, – NWMI, Mumbai


 

The Mumbai Chapter, of   The  Network of Women in Media, India, released a statement   of support for Release of Naveen Soorinje

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE; JAN 6,2013
We are shocked at the continued incarceration of Managalore-based
television journalist Naveen Soorinje by police and demand both his
immediate release and the dropping of charges  against him forthwith.

Naveen Soorinje was arrested on November 9, 2012. His bail application was
rejected on December 26, 2012.

The Mangalore district reporter for Kasturi Newz24, Naveen Soorinje was
instrumental in exposing the July 28 attack by activists of the Hindu
Jagarana Vedike on a group of innocent boys and girls who were celebrating
a birthday party at a homestay in Mangalore. He was arrested by the
Mangalore police on charges under various sections of the Unlawful
Activities (Prevention)Act, the Indian Penal Code from “rioting with deadly
weapons,” criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and using criminal force
on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty. The police have
also invoked Sections 3 and 4 of The Indecent Representation of Women
(Prohibition) Act 1986.

Soorinje’s report, titled ‘The Talibanisation of Mangalore’, was actually
vital evidence of the brutality of the attack and the molestation and
assault on the youth. Instead, he was charged with the same offences as
that of the attackers. The police arrested 31 people in connection with the
attack and Soorinje was lodged in the same sub-jail as them until a protest
from the Mangalore Union of Working Journalists forced police to lodge him
separately.

In his order rejecting Naveen’s bail application, the Karnataka High Court
judge, Keshava Narayana, relied on police evidence that Naveen was
absconding, when in fact, he was very much present in the area and had
covered important and routine assignments between July and November,
including the visit of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to the area.

In the short span of seven years, Soorinje had made a mark as a journalist
in the region for his coverage of powerful groups including Hindutva
organizations, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Popular Front of India, the pontiff
of Pejawar Mutt Vishveshateertha, who is the guru of former Madhya Pradesh
CM Uma Bharti, and the powerful head of the Dharmasthala temple, the
Dharmadhikari Veerendra Heggade, among others. Besides, he wrote exposes on
corrupt policemen and even exposes on journalists taking gifts in return
for favors.

Clearly, the arrest and charges against him smack of vendetta and designed
to work as a ‘chilling effect’ on independent reportage in this region. His
continued incarceration cannot and must not act as a deterrent to fair and
accurate journalism and we demand that he be released forthwith and the
charges against him dropped.

 

 

Civil Society begins fast demanding release of TV journalist


 

By Newzfirst Correspondent1/5/13

 

Bangalore – Journalists, rights activists and members of civil society organizations Saturday began a three-day fast under the aegis of ‘The Forum Against Illegal Arrest of Journalists’ demanding immediate release of Naveen Soorinje, the TV journalist who reported the infamous home-stay attack at Mangalore in July this year.

The arrest of Naveen Soorinje is a blatant violation of press freedom. Instead of making him a witness, the Police have labled him as a perpetrator. The Government should drop all the charges against Soorinje and release him immediately, HR Ranganath, senior journalist and chief of Public TV told media-persons.

“The charges, which are generally framed against criminals, have been framed against a journalist, who conscientiously reported an outrage against partying youths.” he said.

Soorinje has been of booked under different sections of Indian Penal Code like 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, 447 (criminal trespass) and 395 (dacoity) and presently languishes in Mangalore prison.

Another senior journalist Laxman Hoogar said that the arrest of Soorinje is an effort by the police to curtail the freedom of press and to warn the journalists who go against the wish and whims of the Police.

Is covering violence or crime, a crime? he asked.

According to B. T. Venkatesh, a noted Advocate and rights’ defender, “If Soorinje had not covered the incident and reported it, the nation could never come to know about this heinous culture prevailing in our society”.

The listing of Soorinje as an accused and not as a witness is absolutely unjust to both the witness and the victims. And it will help criminals to getaway, he added.

The Karnataka Police had arrested Soorinje, a TV journalist working with Kasturi Newz24, on 7 November and accused him of committing various crimes along with the attackers who belonged to right-wing extremist groups.

The bail application moved by Soorinje has been rejected by both the lower court and the High Court.

Outraged over his arrest, journalists’ organizations, senior journalists as well as civil society groups have been protesting across the state and demanding that the government should drop its proceedings against him.

Despite several appeals by delegations of journalists to the Governor and the Chief Minister, no action has been taken by the Government in this regard. The issue was also taken up with the Home Minister on the floor of the State legislative assembly during the recently concluded session at Belgaum.

 

Journalists announce hunger strike seeking Naveen Soorinje’s release


Staff Reporter, The Hindu, Jan 5 2013

BANGALORE: Backed by the International Federation of Working Journalists, the
Karnataka Union of Working Journalists and the Bangalore Press Club, journalists
from across the State have decided to launch a three-day hunger strike at the
freedom park starting Saturday demanding the immediate release of journalist
Naveen Soorinje.

The Mangalore district reporter for Kasturi Newz24, Mr. Soorinje was
instrumental in exposing the July 28 attack by activists of the Hindu Jagarana
Vedike on a group of innocent boys and girls who were celebrating a birthday
party at a homestay in Mangalore. He was arrested on November 7 by the Mangalore
police on charges ranging from “rioting with deadly weapons,” criminal
conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and using criminal force on a woman with the
intention of outraging her modesty. The police also invoked Sections 3 and 4 of
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986.

Announcing the plan to go on hunger strike, President of the KUWJ Gangadhar
Mudaliar said that numerous memorandums had been submitted to the Chief
Minister, Home Minister as well as the Governor seeking the dropping of charges
against Mr. Soorinje.

Stating that all these “civil” efforts had come to nought, he said, “There is
growing insecurity among the journalists of the State, particularly those
working in rural and district centres. They are under constant pressure from the
police and the administration.”

He said, “The arrest [of Mr. Soorinje] should not be treated as an isolated
incident. It is the government’s way of scaring the entire journalist fraternity
into silence.” Rubbishing the charges against Mr. Soorinje, he said, “Is the
camera a lethal weapon? Is reporting a crime now an offence in this State?”

Vice President of the Press Club Y.G. Ashok Kumar, said, “If we go to a spot to
report a crime, we journalists inform our editors not the police. Our job is to
report the truth and we are not police informers.” He also alleged that the case
against Mr. Soorinje is politically motivated. “The stand taken by his [Mr.
Soorinje's] channel against the government is well known. It is an attempt to
target an anti-establishment news outlet,” he said.

Ravikrishna Reddy, the editor of the Kannada news portal vartamana.com, said,
“The courts, which have denied Mr. Soorinje bail, have been forced to act on the
basis of false and fabricated evidence presented before them. It is now up to
those who have fabricated this evidence to come clean and withdraw the cases
filed against Mr. Soorinje.”

Bageshree S., Senior Assistant Editor at The Hindu, said, “As part of our job,
we often go to cover riots, crimes and conflicts. If the police start charging
us under the same sections as the rioters or criminals, on the grounds that we
did not inform them, how can we perform our duty?”

 

Shooting the messenger #FOE


PARVATHI MENON, The Hindu,  Dec 1, 2012

NOW THE TARGET: In Naveen Soorinje’s arrest, the police, government and media community appear to be authoritative, uncaring and complacent respectively.
Photo: By Special ArrangementNOW THE TARGET: In Naveen Soorinje’s arrest, the police, government and media community appear to be authoritative, uncaring and complacent respectively.

It is a matter of shame that instead of being celebrated, Naveen Soorinje, who followed journalism’s best traditions in reporting the attack by Hindutva vigilantes in Mangalore earlier this year, is now languishing in jail

Had it not been for 27-year-old Navin Soorinje, a reporter with Kasturi Channel Newz 24 in Mangalore, and footage that he so generously shared with other channels, India would never have seen the images of what transpired behind the closed doors of “Morning Mist” homestay in Mangalore on the evening of July 28 this year.

It was a brutal attack that a group of self-appointed arbiters of societal mores belonging to the right-wing Hindu Jagarana Vedike let loose on an unsuspecting gathering of young men and women at the homestay. The appalling images of marauding hooligans mercilessly beating young men, and slapping, stripping and molesting women constitute a very strong body of evidence to proceed against the culprits. At what point the Mangalore police arrived on the scene is not clear, although there are several media reports quoting witnesses as saying that the police were present even as the attack was taking place, or were at the very least aware of the commotion going on, and could have intervened much earlier. On this matter, please see: 

TIP-OFF

Having received a tip-off from a reliable source about a volatile gathering outside the homestay, Mr. Soorinje rushed to the spot with a cameraman. He recognised Subhash Padil, a prominent leader of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike. When he realised the motives of the gang, he tried several times to alert the jurisdictional police from the venue. When he failed, he alerted a counterpart from another channel, who also tried to call the jurisdictional police. No, he did not throw himself physically into the fight. That would have been foolhardy given the numbers against him. He did what any journalist would do in such a situation — he got his cameraman to film the outrage. Mr. Soorinje informed his colleagues of the attack and shared his footage with anyone who asked. In fact, the attack was first aired on a rival channel.

It therefore came as shock to Mr. Soorinje that his name was included in the First Information Report, dated July 28, as a participant in the attack. The charge sheet, filed on September 20, invokes sections of the CrPC that related to offences such as “rioting with deadly weapons,” criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and using criminal force on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty. It also invokes Sections 3 and 4 of The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986.

After the charge sheet was filed on September 20, Mr. Soorinje applied for anticipatory bail in the JMFC 3rd court. The application was to be heard on November 15. However, as he was arrested on November 7, Mr. Soorinje filed for bail the following day. The JMFC 3rd court rejected his bail application on November 17.

HIGH COURT STAYS CASE

Meanwhile, Mr. Soorinje had applied for a stay on the proceedings of the case in the High Court in Bangalore. The stay was granted on November 19. On the strength of this, Mr. Soorinje filed another bail application in the JMFC 3rd court which came up for hearing on November 20. He was produced handcuffed in court, in violation of the Supreme Court guideline that forbids the handcuffing of under-trials. The JMFC 3rd Court then asked the High Court for a “clarification” on the stay order. The High Court vacated the stay on November 21. Mr. Soorinje then filed for bail in the First Additional District and Sessions Court in Mangalore, and on November 27 that court too denied him bail.

Two of the four journalists who covered the homestay attack have been charged with the same offences as the criminals they so bravely exposed. Of them, only Mr. Soorinje is in jail, and has been denied bail.

There are several disconcerting elements in the case against Mr. Soorinje.

First, there is evidence from the phone records of the jurisdictional sub-inspector that he received two phone calls from Mr. Padil, leader of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike, one before and one after the attack. This in itself may not prove collusion. Yet, Mr. Padil himself subsequently boasted to the media that he had alerted the police about “immoral activities” going on in the homestay and when they failed to act, he decided to enforce his own justice on the guests at the party.

Second, the case against Mr. Soorinje hangs on the evidence of Mr. Vijay Kumar, the organiser of the get-together and the only complainant. In his original complaint to the police, Mr. Vijay Kumar told a press conference, he had only referred to “activists of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike” as the perpetrators, with no names. In the FIR that formed the basis of the charge sheet, the names of the attackers appear, along with Mr. Soorinje’s. Mr. Kumar alleged that the police had made him sign a blank sheet of paper on the night of the attack.

ABSCONDING?

Third, in their charge sheet the police claimed Mr. Soorinje was “absconding,” even though he appeared three times before the investigating officer after the FIR was filed, even completing a 42-point police questionnaire with details of the incident. Further, he attended the first press conference held on November 19 by the new Commissioner of Police, Mangalore. He was constantly in public view, reporting live from various places. He was also issued a press pass by the Commissioner of Police that allowed him to cover a programme featuring the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi.

What does all this tell us? A police force that wishes to silence a conscientious journalist? A State government that cares little for the freedom of speech? A media community so complacent that it does not rally in support of a colleague who has become the victim of an obvious miscarriage of justice?

Naveen Soorinje chose to stand up for journalism’s best traditions, and it is a matter of shame that instead of being celebrated he has been jailed.

parvathi.menon@ thehindu.co.in

 

The wrongful arrest of Naveen Soorinje #VAW reporting


 

The Kasturi TV reporter was named in the chargesheet that identified 43 others who attacked a birthday party in Padil. Strangely, Soorinje was amongst the first few to report the assault

G Vishnu
New Delhi,  08 November 2012


In a brazen attack on journalists’ freedom in Karnataka, Mangalore police have arrested Naveen Soorinje, a journalist with Kasturi TV, a kannada news channel. The 28-year-old scribe was arrested at 10.30 in the night when he was returning from a reporting assignment.

As absurd as it can get, Naveen was named in the chargesheet that identified 43 others from the Hindu Jagarana Vedike (a right-wing Hindutva group) who attacked a birthday party at a home-stay in Padil. The attackers, just like the Shri Rama Sene’s pub attack in Mangalore in 2008, beat up and molested young girls stating that they were indulging in a rave party and that it was against Indian culture.

Strangely, the chargesheet of the case names Naveen, amongst the first reporters to have reached the spot of the attack and covered it, with the same charges as those who beat up and molested the girls present there. Naveen is the 44th accused and has been booked under 120 (b); conspiracy, 143; unlawful assembly, 147; rioting, 148; rioting with deadly weapons, 447; criminal trespassing, 325; causing grievous hurt, 354; assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, 504, 506, 509, 358 to be read with IPC 149, 448, 114, 341, 323, 324. Ironically, the 43 other accused were identified with the help of the footage shot by Naveen’s cameraman. Naveen, who had got tipped off by a local source — call records of Naveen from the day available with TEHELKA shows that it was not one of the attackers — turned up at the spot with a cameraman merely to do his job of reporting the incident.

The police had initially charged that Naveen did not inform the police about the attack while he covered. The dubiousness of the charge notwithstanding – the CDR records of Naveen from that day show that he not only made repeated calls to the Mangalore Police Commissioner (who was out of town at the time), as well as Ravish Nayak, inspector of the nearby police station, but never got a call back from the local cop. Little surprise, that it was the same cop who arrested Naveen.

Accustomed to harassment of all kinds, as other reporters in Mangalore testify, Naveen has been an intrepid reporter for a decade. He has been reporting with rigour, the unlawful activities of Sangh Parivar goons, police harassment of Malekudia tribals in the name of Anti-Naxal Operation and the land mafias. Hence, this case hardly intimidated Naveen, who after getting the warrant two weeks earlier had applied for an anticipatory bail, which never came along because of court holidays.

“Last night, after covering a JD(S) rally that Kumaraswamy attended, we were returning when Inspector Ravish Nayak of Kankanady police station stopped us near Padil. They claimed it was a police check but the personnel left soon after taking Naveen into custody,” says Shiva, cameraman with the same channel Naveen works for. “They took him to a magistrate and was sent to Mangalore Sub-jail within 20 minutes, which gave us no time to react,” he added.

Curiously, the arrest came right after JD(S) Kumaraswamy’s provocative statement in his speech that he would have the mighty RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat. Reporters who have faced harassment in the hands of the local administration and Sangh Parivar goons are convinced that Naveen’s arrest was a simple case of political vendetta as Kasturi channel (where Naveen works) is owned by none other than Kumaraswamy.

Vendetta or not, the arrest of Naveen only goes on to further assert the idea that Karnataka is being run by a communal and an authoritarian regime that has no respect for freedom of expression or other basic rights.

G Vishnu is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
vishnu@tehelka.com