Editor’s arrest questioned in Bihar legislator murder case

Saturday, January 8, 2011

PATNA - Journalists in Bihar Saturday termed the arrest of Navlesh Pathak, editor of Purnia-based English weekly ‘Quisling’, in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Raj Kishore Kesri’s stabbing case as an attempt to suppress press freedom.

Kesri, a BJP legislator from Purnia assembly constituency, was knifed Jan 4 in his home by a woman teacher Rupam Pathak, who alleged the politician had raped her for over three years.

Navlesh Pathak had first reported about Rupam’s sexual harassment complaint.

Police arrested Navlesh Thursday after an FIR was registered in the case against three accused, including Rupam, by Kesri’s nephew. A Bihar court Friday sent him to judicial custody for 14 days.

“I was really shocked and failed to understand the arrest of Navlesh Pathak. Is it a crime to report the truth? Police have arrested him under political pressure to suppress his voice,” said Irshadul Haque, Tehelka magazine’s senior correspondent in Bihar.

Another journalist Santosh, a reporter for ETV Bihar, said Navlesh’s arrest was done in haste.

“Navlesh Pathak is a responsible man. Editing an English weekly newspaper in a small town like Purnia, he dared to expose a big story but was arrested after being named as a mere accused. There are hundreds of prime accused in serious crime cases who are roaming free in Bihar,” he said.

Nikhil Anand, political editor of News India, Bihar said it was shameful that a journalist was put behind bars for exposing a scandal.

“It is unfortunate that leaders who led the anti-Emergency movement during mid-1970s in Bihar are at the helm of affairs… when a ruling party legislator is stabbed to death, it exposes the relation between power and sex. It appears to be the biggest sex scandal involving politicians. Navlesh should be rewarded but he is being punished,” Anand told IANS.

“Bihar media is facing its biggest test in recent times. It is torn between constant praise for the state government led by Nitish Kumar and professional excellence as shown by Pathak,” said Anand S.T. Das, a senior journalist working with Asian Age.

Amit Kumar, chief reporter with Bihar’s leading Hindi magazine Tapman, said it was unfortunate that no journalist union had raised its voice against Navlesh’s arrest.

“It appears that for journalist unions, Navlesh Pathak’s arrest is not an issue,” he said.

A senior journalist who did not wish to be named said that Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, soon after Kesri’s killing, shrugged off the editor’s arrest by saying that his weekly was a small, insignificant publication.

Earlier, Ruma Pathak, Navlesh’s wife, alleged that police was biased in its inquiry and apprehended a threat to him in custody.

The news of Kesri’s killing spread rapidly across Bihar, where the BJP is the junior ally of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U)-led government.

Rupam Pathak, around 40, went to Kesri’s home in Purnia and stabbed him to death in the presence of a number of people.

“He died soon after being stabbed because his vital organs were badly damaged,” an employee at Kesri’s house said.

Rupam was badly beaten up by Kesri’s security guards and supporters following the murder. She alleged Kesri, 51, had raped her for over three years, a charge refuted by the party.

A Bihar court Thursday sent Rupam to judicial custody for 14 days, officials said.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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