Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 29:
The IG, Railway Protection Force (RPF) today placed the IIC Sanjay Kumar Swain under suspension for allegedly brutally assaulting a reporter and cameraman of Kanak TV while they were covering the news on the inordinate delay in the arrival of a train at the railway station in the Odisha capital this morning.
What apparently infuriated the now suspended IIC was the fact that the crew was shooting the alleged misbehaviour of RPF men with a woman protesting against the delay in the arrival of a train she was waiting to board.
Sources said some passengers, mostly from Chhattisgarh, had booked tickets in the Puri-Durg Express. But as there was inordinate delay in the arrival of the train, the irate passengers detained the Rajdhani Express in protest.
Following this, a team of RPF officials, led by IIC Sanjay Kumar Swain arrived at the spot and allegedly dragged the protesting passengers from the track. There were reports of the policemen touching the private parts of a woman.
RPF officials got furious after they saw Shankarshan Patra, cameraman of Kanak TV, a leading TV channel of the state from the Eastern Media stable, recording the incident. They first snatched Sena’s camera, took the video cassette out and then severely thrashed the lensman. When Satyajit Sena, the Kanak TV reporter tried to come to the rescue of his colleague, he too was severely beaten up and injured. The RPF men detained seven passengers – four women, a one-and-half year-old child and the two Kanak TV journalists – for nearly five hours.
As soon as the news spread, media persons, social activists and politicians rushed to the railway station and protested outside the RPF office along with several enraged locals demanding suspension of the IIC besides seeking unconditional apology from him.
The IIC of Government Railway Police (GRP) Saubhagya Kumar Swain tried to pacify the mob, but in vain.
Sensing trouble, the RPF officials later released the detainees on PR bond but told the media persons that they would not hand over the cassette to them.
The chairman of the Eastern Media Limited group publications, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, has condemned the incident in strong words.
“The question that arises is why the media persons had gone there and what had they done for which they were arrested, brutally assaulted and detained for over five hours? Now, the police are telling the media persons that they would release them, but would not hand over the cassette which had recorded the police brutality on the passengers. I am completely taken aback and don’t understand why the police are having such attitude. The first and foremost duty of the Railway Police is to safeguard the Railway property and the passengers. I have a feeling that the Railway Police are more concerned about their own safety,” said Patnaik, while expressing grave concern over the incident.
He said the most important asset of the media is the collection of facts for dissemination of news and pictures to authenticate their story.
“If the duty of the police is to safeguard the life and properties of the people, then what were they doing here? The time has come for the police to explain why they are trying to hide the video cassette which has recorded the entire inciden?. I think if the police are trying to browbeat the media and stifle its voice, they are committing a Herculean blunder. They won’t have the time and scope to regret,” Patnaik warned.
He said the next step of the media house and the media persons, as ordinary citizens, is to lodge an FIR against the theft of and damage to their equipment.
“We will inform the Odisha Police about the brutality of the Railway police and the theft of our equipment and request them to take stern action against the erring staff.”
Senior Congress leader Suresh Routray, who rushed to the railway station following the incident, expressed his grave concern.
“This is a gross injustice on the part of the RPF personnel. Beating up the media persons, who are the watchdogs of the society, is utterly condemnable. I demand immediate arrest of the RPF IIC and release of the husband and the mother of the woman who were roughed up and detained, failing which the RPF authorities would be responsible for the situation. We will not spare the chief minister under whose tenure such despicable incident has taken place,” Routray said.
Political parties, several journalists’ bodies and human rights activists have condemned the RPF brutality and demanded stern action against them.