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March 15, 1999
ASSEMBLY POLL '98
4 journalists murdered in two years: occupational hazards of reporting in Delhi
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
On November 19, 1997 Shivani Jajodia, 37, a producer with New Delhi Television was attacked by a stalker at her Vasant Kunj home. Two days later she died in Apollo Hospital.
Sudha Gupta, announcer and newsreader with All India Radio, was murdered on November 17, 1998 in her Mandir Marg flat in the national capital.
On January 23, 1999, Indian Express principal correspondent Shivani Bhatnagar was murdered in her flat.
On March 13, 1999, the decomposed body of Outlook's senior cartoonist Irfan Hussain was found dumped in a vacant plot besides National Highway no 24 in East Delhi's Gazipur area. Irfan had been missing for five days before his body was recovered by the Delhi police.
While the first three cases are being investigated by Crime Branch of Delhi police, the fourth case is being investigated by a joint team of East Delhi and South Delhi police.
The sudden spurt in crime against journalists in the capital in particular has sent shockwaves in media circles. Journalists have started feeling insecure and wondering if there is a pattern behind the attacks on media men/women.
Punjab's former director general of police K P S Gill does not rule out this possibility. "It is possible. But before we can arrive at certain conclusions we have to look into the kind of assignments these journalists were doing prior to their murders," says the super-cop.
But the Delhi police crime branch chief, Additional Commissioner of Police B K Gupta does not agree with Gill. "There is no link between any of the cases. The Crime Branch is following the first three cases, we have got leads in all of them and hopefully we will be able to work them out very soon.," he claims.
"But what is intriguing more than anything else is a claim made by the wife of National Herald cartoonist Paresh that someone had threatened to kill Sudhir Tailang, The Hindustan Times cartoonist and her husband. While we are not going into the authenticity of the claims at the moment, we have provided both cartoonists with security guards," says Amod Kanth, joint commissioner of police, in-charge of Southern Range, Delhi.
While Irfan's friends and relatives claim the cartoonist was on the hit-list of Shiv Sainiks, Delhi police officers refute the claim. Even Outlook's editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta denied any knowledge of the alleged threat to Irfan from the Sena. "Irfan may have caricatured Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. They were angry with the story, but not the cartoon," Mehta told reporters in New Delhi.
"Given the fact that there have been so many attacks on newsmen in recent times, reporting has become an occupational hazard. It was always so, but it has become all the more now, dangerous even. It is time the government took notice of our problems and did something about it," says A R Wig, president of the Press Club of India.
"After Shivani Bhatnagar's murder, a delegation of journalists met Union Home Minister L K Advani to draw his attention to the growing violence against journalists all over India and in the capital in particular. The home minister had then assured the delegation that he would do something about it very soon. Now that another journalist has lost his life, it is time Advani puts his words into practice," says a senior journalist.
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