It was in July 2012 that the Itanagar-based Associate Editor with The Arunachal Timeswas shot at while entering her office. Despite public protests and support from across India, all she gets are empty assurances. An indifferent state administration has only added insult to the injuries she sustained.
It’s been six months since you wereshot at. What kind of response have you received from the authorities so far? Was there any action from the police?
All I have received is assurance after assurance. Nothing else. The police is not bothered and the government seem to think its job is finished with handing out Rs 2.50 lakh and arranging a chopper ride for me and two family members from Itanagar to Guwahati.
Why do you think the authorities have not been able to nab the culprits in spite of CCTV?
Unfortunately, there is no CCTV footage. But authorities have not been able to nab the culprits because they are not serious.
It must have been a difficult time for you and your family. What kind of circumstances have you been through?
It has been a very difficult time for us. Everything has come to a halt after the attempt on my life. I am yet to work from office as I still find it difficult to sit up for long hours. I have not written anything in the last six months, which is incredibly sad. I and my family are yet to come out of shock. My mother refuses to let me get back to work while I and my partner discuss physiotherapy, counselling and visits to doctors instead of holidays! But we have found enormous courage because of the support we received from the people of my state and also media fraternity from across the country. People have gone out of their way to support us. They have prayed for us. We are indebted. I wish police was more responsible and willing and government took note of this.
Do you have any idea about the motive of your attackers since your office was attacked on a previous occasion as well? Has it got something to do with the kind of stories your newspaper was doing?
Our office has been targeted five times in the last one year. That’s no joke. It’s very easy to figure out that we have been attacked because of the stories we do and because of the stand we take. These attacks are also a sign that there is no law and order. The criminals know that they can get away with anything in Arunachal, even murder. These repeated events clearly show what kind of policing, governance and judiciary we have in Arunachal Pradesh.
What kind of injuries did you suffer? What is the present state of your health? How has it affected your life, personally as well as professionally?
The bullet missed the vital organs by a few milimetres but it tore open a portion of my stomach. The doctors removed the bullet and every time I see a doctor, they always tell me that I am very lucky as the attack could have been fatal. My life has been turned upside down, inside out. I and my partner are trying to rebuild our lives. It’s been slow and painful. And it’s been extremely difficult on my parents and my partner as I am prone to angry outbursts after the attack. We are seeking help for it.
Could you find any kind of remedy for the psychological trauma you underwent?
There is no quick remedy. It’s a slow process and we are still dealing with it.
Are you confident enough to walk into your office now?
Yes. I am not scared and they can’t win. They are cowards. Imagine shooting someone from behind.
How supportive has the local press fraternity been?
The local press has been very supportive. They are doing everything possible. They took out a silent protest rally on January 15 to question why it was taking so long to nab the culprit.
Did anyone approach the Press Council of India and other such bodies at the national and global level?
I am not sure about the Press Council of India. I got a letter informing me that they were planning a visit to Itanagar regarding my case. But I got no further information. Perhaps they are busy. The Committee for Protection of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, South Asia Women in Media have been extremely supportive. I am in regular touch with them.
What do you have to say about the safety of journalists in Arunachal Pradesh? How difficult is it to work in the frontier state?
There is no safety for journalists as well as common citizens in Arunachal since there is zero conviction rate. As I said, criminals get away with everything. There is a criminal-politician-police nexus in the state. And their favourite targets are journalists, as some of us dare report the truth. Even owners of media houses are not doing enough. Journalists work at their own risk as media houses have not done enough to protect their journalists and they pay abysmally.
Do you still hope for some justice at the end of the day?
At the rate things are going, I see no hope. But let’s hope for the best. Hopefully, my grandmother will know who harmed her favourite child before she dies.
Do you think some kind of a systematic campaign for justice can be carried out?
Right now I have no idea but yes, I look for support from everywhere. The state police and the government in Arunachal need to know that their long vacation is over and they have to work. They have to give an honest answer to my family and fellow journalists and people who care.
Teresa Rehman is the Editor of The Thumb Print (www.thethumbprintmag.com)
- Prime accused in Arunachal scribe’s attack case nabbed (assamtribune.com)
- 4 more accused held in Itanagar media attack case (assamtribune.com)