Did journalists in Dantewada pay the price for being with the police?

34-year-old Achuthanand Sahu, who was a cameraman in Doordarshan, was shooting a video on the beauty of Dantewada, about four hours before the attack. Sahu, who died in a Naxalite and police encounter, went to cover elections in Arhanpur, Nilavaya Panchayat. For the first time elections were being held in this area and that is why he and his entire team reached there to cover this story.

At 11:30 am on October 30, Sahu and his three companions arrived in the village. Along with them, 30 security personnel also arrived on 15 motorcycles. Sahu and his companions were present at the scene along with 6-7 policemen while the rest of the soldiers were at some distance behind them. Just then, a group of more than 60 Naxalites attacked him and started firing heavily. Armed Naxalites also hurled grenades at security forces. By the time the situation came under control, 3 people were injured. Which included Sahu and 2 policemen, Sub-Inspector Rudra Pratap and Assistant Sub-Inspector Mangalu.

The remaining two members of Doordarshan, reporter and assistant cameraman, saved their lives by lying on the ground.

It is important to know that the Naxalites were surprised that the Election Commission and the government are going to set up a polling station in the Nilavaya Panchayat of Arhanpur, which is a Naxalite area. According to Ratanlal Dangi, DIG of South Bastar, the Naxalites are very angry with the ongoing road construction work between Arhanpur and Jagrgunda, which passes through the stronghold area of ​​the Naxalites.

Opinions Of The Journalists

Local journalists are of the opinion that DD News team went for reporting with the police, due to which it came under target of Naxalites. Local journalist Sanjay Thakur of Channel News Nation said, “Even before DD News, journalists of many channels had gone to the spot for reporting. Even many outside journalists had gone there to cover the story of Nilavaya Panchayat in Dantewada. Naxalites had earlier He was disturbed by such news going on in the media that the police had laid siege to that entire area. Despite this, he did not attack any such journalist Which there was no security. ”

Thakur said that there is an unwritten rule of reporting in Bastar that you cannot go with the police to do a story. He said, “If the team of DD News had gone there without security forces, more and more people would have scrambled with them and they would have told them to leave from there. But due to going there with the police, this deadly and malicious attack on them Happened.”

Further, Thakur told that along with DD News, the number of security forces personnel was around 30, which was very less compared to the Naxalites. He should have taken some other precautions also. When the DD News team did not wear a bulletproof jacket, they should have walked a certain distance from the police.

DD News correspondent Dheeraj Kumar who was a member of the team covering the Nilavaya Panchayat. He told, “There was never a vote in that village for the last 30 years. For the first time a polling station was being built there. This time, the government persuaded the villagers to vote in the upcoming elections, which was a major victory over democracy’s Naxalism. “Kumar and the entire team of DD News covered the car up to the highway but the last one and a half kilometers from the village he Covered on motorcycles with security forces.

He further added, “About 500 meters before the village, the Naxals attacked us. They started firing at us without seeing, those people were screaming don’t leave anyone, kill journalists too.”

Kumar does not think that this attack happened due to going with the police. He said, “One thing must be understood that before going to such a place it is very important to have geographical information there. We did not even know on which road the Naxalites have laid explosives. If we go there without security forces, then We could have all been killed in the landmine explosion. It is a matter of great sadness that we lost our friend in this attack. ”

Another member of DD News team Mor Mukut Sharma was also injured during this attack. Sharma made a video lying on the ground during the attack and this video is becoming quite viral on social media. In this video, Sharma is saying that while covering the election, the Naxalites have attacked him and may not survive in this attack. He made this video for his mother.

DIG Ratanlal Dangi, in a conversation with Newslaundry, said that the main reason for the attack is the road construction between Arhanpur and Jagrgunda, which has upset the Naxalites. They know that along with the road, mobile towers, schools will reach the people, which will reduce their impact on the tribal people. Nearly 15 to 20 people have died in the last 15 days after falling into a pit prepared by their IEDs and specially spiked wood. Every single act of his was being shown in the media, due to which there was anger among them.

According to Dangi, he had a special motive behind targeting the media in Nilavaya. “The postmortem report showed that not only the cameraman was shot but also his head attacked with a sharp weapon. Even before this many journalists have visited the area but never before. Happened.”

Sahu was a resident of village Ghurmunda in Bolangir district of Odisha. He lived in Delhi with his wife, who is pregnant, and his father. In 2008, Sahu left the army and joined the media.

He resigned from the army because of a bullet in his leg. In 2012, he started working in the same regional channel after completing his studies from Biju Patnaik University Cuttack. In 2013, he joined DD News and as a cameraman, he covered the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and Haryana election.

Sahil’s close friend Anil Mahapatra says, “I was shocked when I heard about him. He was more than my brother to me. He had a big heart and always took care of those around him. I still can’t believe he doesn’t live among us. ”

Talking to Newslaundry, his friend and a working colleague Vijay Sahu said, “Many people in DD News refused to visit this place but Sahu was a very courageous and brave person. That is why he agreed to do this assignment. I could not believe that he had been killed. When his report in the news channel started coming with the picture, we believed that he was the one who died and nobody else. ”