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Attacks on the Press in 2004 - India

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2005
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2004 - India, February 2005, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In a stunning upset, India's voters surprised the media and the world by rejecting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Hindu nationalism in favor of the secular Indian National Congress party in general elections in May. However, despite the general disavowal of extremism at the polls, ethnic and religious tensions persisted in the world's largest democracy, posing onerous threats to journalists in 2004. The contested northern territory of Kashmir continued to be a particularly dangerous beat.

The Indian media played an active role in the spring elections, according to local journalists, providing strong campaign coverage and monitoring for irregularities in the vast electoral process. (More than 370 million Indians voted across 28 states during a three-week period, according to the official vote tally.) But journalists and poll-takers at first erroneously predicted a BJP victory, based on recent economic growth and progress in peace talks with Pakistan, which one analyst characterized in the respected English-language daily The Hindu as reflecting a "huge disconnect ... between the mass media and the mass reality."

The election results were in some respects positive for the press. Jayaram Jayalalitha, chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu known for her intolerance of media criticism, suffered a massive defeat when her party failed to win a single seat in the general election. Days later, she axed several controversial proposals and withdrew the estimated 125 criminal defamation lawsuits her government had pending against local and national news outlets, including 20 criminal cases against The Hindu alone.

In September, journalists hailed the newly formed government's decision to repeal the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The tough antiterrorism legislation, passed in 2002, was intended to fight separatist Islamic militants in Kashmir, but critics argued that it was used instead to suppress minority communities, politicians, and journalists. At year's end, an appeal was pending before the Supreme Court in the case of R.R. Gopal, editor of the Tamil-language magazine Nakkheeran, who served eight months in prison in 2003 on a POTA charge of illegal arms possession.

Journalists covering war-ravaged Kashmir were targeted or caught in the crossfire between Indian government forces and Islamic militants throughout 2004, especially during the elections. Despite a November 2003 cease-fire signed by India and Pakistan, fighting flared in March, when militants stormed the Indian government's media office in the summer capital, Srinagar, sending it up in flames. Dozens of journalists and their families who lived in buildings adjacent to the information center had to be evacuated, but no one was injured.

Days later, Indian security officers at a police checkpoint beat and harassed Rafiq Maqbool, a photographer with The Associated Press based in Srinagar, after they noticed cameras in his car. Then, in September, police again attacked Maqbool, as well as photographer Amin War of the national newspaper The Tribune, while the journalists were covering a militant Islamic group's violent rampage against businesses it considered "obscene."

Two Indian journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2004. Veeraboina Yadagiri, a staff correspondent of Andhra Prabha, a Telugu-language daily newspaper, was murdered on February 21 in Medak in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh. Four people attacked and stabbed Yadagiri, a journalist with 20 years' experience, in retaliation for his reporting on the illegal liquor business, according to local journalists. Police arrested four suspects – who were awaiting trial at year's end – but they also arrested a colleague of Yadagiri who witnessed the murder, Siddaram Reddy. Local journalist groups have protested Reddy's detention, and the government is investigating his arrest.

The second journalist killed in 2004 was Asiya Jeelani. Jeelani, a freelance journalist, was traveling with election monitors on April 20 on a rural road in northern Kashmir when a land mine detonated, killing her and her driver. Another freelance journalist traveling with the group, Khurram Parvez, suffered serious leg injuries.

Two other journalists were wounded in the crossfire of grenade attacks on local politicians running in the elections. Freelance photographer Habib Naqash suffered shrapnel wounds in his chest and hands when a grenade exploded near a parliamentary candidate's home on May 3; Sheikh Tariq, a cameraman for New Delhi Television, sustained minor injuries during a grenade attack on Mehbooba Mehti, head of Kashmir's ruling People's Democratic Party, on April 25.

Journalists contributed to peace efforts in Kashmir in October, when reporters from rival Pakistan were invited to visit their counterparts in the Indian-controlled territory for the first time since partition in 1948. The groundbreaking visit by 16 Pakistani journalists was part of the people-to-people exchanges agreed upon during peace talks earlier in the year between the Indian and Pakistani governments. Members of the delegation said they hoped the visit would break down information barriers between India and Pakistan, according to local news reports. Control of Kashmir is the main point of dispute between the two countries, which have gone to war twice over the territory, and which both now have nuclear weapons.

The Marathi-language daily Mahanagar (Big City), in Mumbai, formerly Bombay, was the target of attacks stemming from religious and political tensions over the summer. In June, militant members of the BJP stormed the newspaper's offices, shouting BJP slogans, and accusing the paper, which is known for its secular editorial policies, of having an anti-BJP editorial line. Two months later, unidentified assailants stabbed one of the newspaper's editors, Sajid Rashid, twice when he left the office. Days after the attack, on August 28, Editor Nikhil Wagle and two of the paper's reporters, Yuvraj Mohite and Pramod Nirgukar, were beaten and doused with gasoline by Hindu militants in the town of Malvan, Maharashtra State, in western India, after holding a local press workshop, according to the journalists.

For the second year in a row, the Central Board for Film Certification, India's powerful censorship board, tried to ban a documentary film about the 2002 sectarian riots in the western state of Gujarat. Later in 2004, the board reversed its ruling and allowed the release of the film, "Final Solution." Long-standing tensions between Muslims and Hindus flared in Gujarat in February 2002, when an estimated 1,000 Muslims were killed in sectarian violence after an allegedly Muslim group set a train on fire, killing 59 Hindus. Public discussion of the riots remains sensitive. In 2003, the board banned "Aakrosh" (Cry of Anguish), a Hindu-language film about Gujarat that contained interviews with survivors and witnesses, because it was "negative."

After a devastating tsunami hit much of India's eastern coastal regions on December 26, the media helped provide news and support to the relief efforts. The state-run All India Radio broadcast updates about the storm and information about survivors and missing family members to the stranded residents of the remote Nicobar and Andaman islands, whose telecommunications were disrupted after the disaster. An estimated 10,000 Indians died in the tsunami.

2004 Documented Cases – India

FEBRUARY 21, 2004
Posted: December 3, 2004

Veeraboina Yadagiri, Andhra Prabha

Yadagiri, a veteran journalist and staff correspondent for the local, Telugu-language daily Andhra Prabha, was stabbed to death near his home in the town of Medak, in India's southern Andhra Pradesh State. Local journalists told CPJ that Yadagiri, 35, was murdered in reprisal for his articles investigating the illegal sale of home-brewed liquor, known locally as toddy.

Local sources told CPJ that Yadagiri had written a series of articles detailing the dangers of consuming toddy and accusing local politicians of being involved in its trade. The national English-language newspaper The Hindu reported that prior to his death, Yadagiri had registered a police complaint after he received threats from a local contractor involved in the illegal toddy business.

According to local sources, on the night of February 21, Yadagiri was invited to a meeting with several people involved in the toddy trade. After the meeting, Yadagiri was accompanied home by at least three of the men who had been present, along with Siddaram Reddy, another local journalist and friend of Yadagiri. Lakshminarayana Goud, one of those accompanying Yadagiri, stabbed him multiple times before fleeing the scene, according to local news reports and sources.

Reddy and Yadagiri's family members brought the journalist to a hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. Following the stabbing, local police arrested four suspects and charged them with involvement in the murder. According to Amar Devulapalli, the head of the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ), Goud was charged, along with Sirimalle Srinivas, Venkatesh Chauhan, and Nagi Reddy (who is not related to Siddaram Reddy).

Devulapalli told CPJ that the state government of Andhra Pradesh condemned the murder and gave money and land to Yadagiri's family as compensation for their loss. However, local police have accused Siddaram Reddy of being the true culprit in the murder and have arrested and charged him with involvement, Devulapalli said.

In response, APUWJ pressured the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the state's prosecution of Yadagiri's murder. The CBI is currently conducting an inquiry into the handling of the case, during which the trials for the four suspects and Siddaram Reddy have been delayed, Devulapalli said.

MARCH 15, 2004
Posted: April 8, 2004

Rafiq Maqbool, Associated Press

Maqbool, a photographer with The Associated Press, was stopped at a police checkpoint in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, while driving home. When he did not exit his car fast enough at the checkpoint, Indian security officers screamed at him to hurry, and then, upon noticing his cameras in the back seat of the car, started beating him on the head, according to Maqbool and another journalist who witnessed the event.

Maqbool told the officers that he has a blood clot on his brain from a grenade explosion, but they continued harassing him. A police constable on the scene told another security officer to rip his uniform, so that they could claim that Maqbool had attacked him, providing them a reason for shooting the journalist, said Maqbool.

He was saved when another police officer approached the checkpoint and helped Maqbool get away. Before leaving, the abusive security officer told Maqbool that he would kill all of the journalists "one by one."

APRIL 20, 2004
Updated: November 4, 2004

Asiya Jeelani, freelance

Jeelani died en route to the hospital after a van carrying an elections monitoring team detonated an explosive device on a rural road in northern Kashmir.

Jeelani was a freelance journalist who contributed to local newspapers, and a human rights activist who worked with several nongovernmental organizations. Local sources said she was helping a local umbrella organization, the Coalition of Civil Society, prepare an account of its monitoring activity, and may have been reporting on the election herself.

The driver of the van was also killed in the blast. After the explosion, the coalition called off its monitoring activities, citing the danger involved.

APRIL 20, 2004
Posted: April 30, 2004

Khurram Parvez, freelance

Journalism student Parvez sustained severe injuries to his leg when the van he was traveling in, which was being used by an elections monitoring team sent by a local umbrella organization, the Coalition of Civil Society, detonated a land mine on a rural road in northern Kashmir.

According to Imroz Parvez (no relation), who heads the coalition, Khurram is studying journalism and has contributed reporting to Informative Missive, a monthly publication put out by a local human rights organization affiliated with the coalition.

Following the blast, Khurram received extensive medical care and his leg was operated on several times at a hospital in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state. Another journalist and human rights activist, Asiya Jeelani, was killed in the explosion.

APRIL 25, 2004
Posted: May 3, 2004

Sheikh Tariq, NDTV

Tariq, a cameraman for the private satellite channel New Delhi Television (NDTV), was injured in a grenade attack aimed at Mehbooba Mufti, head of Kashmir's ruling People's Democratic Party, near the town of Kulgam in the south of the troubled territory. The attack took place on the eve of voting in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, in India's staggered national elections.

Tariq was filming from a vehicle near Mufti's motorcade when the grenade exploded, he told CPJ. The cameraman was accompanied by a reporter from NDTV, Fayaz Bukhari, and their driver, Mohammed Ismail, who was also injured. Tariq sustained minor injuries to his hands and leg in the explosion and spent a half-hour in the Kulgam hospital following the attack.

Mufti was unhurt in the attack, according to news reports, but several bystanders were killed and dozens were injured in the explosion.

According to local sources, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local police officers blamed Islamic militants, who have been engaged in a violent struggle against Indian rule since 1989.

MAY 3, 2004
Posted: May 3, 2004

Habib Naqash, freelance

Naqash, a freelance photojournalist who works for the national English-language daily Asian Age and the local English-language daily Greater Kashmir, was injured in a grenade explosion in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state. Nakash was outside Greater Kashmir's office when a grenade was hurled at the nearby home of politician Nizamuddin Bhat, who is a parliamentary candidate for the state's ruling People's Democratic Party.

Naqash sustained several injuries in the attack, including shrapnel wounds in his chest and hands. Following the explosion, he was admitted to a hospital in Srinagar.

A local police officer told The Associated Press that the attack was orchestrated by alleged Islamic militants who were targeting Bhat's home. The officer also said that a search had been launched for the perpetrators. Militant groups have been engaged in a violent struggle against Indian rule in Kashmir since 1989.

JUNE 29, 2004
Posted: July 14, 2004


Militant members of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the offices of the Marathi-language daily Mahanagar in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). According to the paper's editor in chief, Nikhil Wagle, more than 30 people stormed the paper's offices, shouting BJP slogans and expressing anger at Mahanagar's editorial line, which they said was anti-BJP.

The militants told several journalists who were present that they were looking for Wagle, who was out of the office during the attack, the editor said. The militants threw away some of the newspaper's files, disconnected the electricity, and blacked out the paper's name on its sign. They also pushed several staff members, including Yuvraj Mohite, a senior reporter, and Vaishali Rode, an assistant editor.

Local journalists told CPJ that Mahanagar is respected for its independence. Wagle said the publication has criticized the BJP and other Hindu nationalist political parties for their policy of stirring up tension between Hindus and members of India's minority religious groups, notably Muslims. According to local sources, BJP members' anger at Mahanagar may have increased after this year's national elections, in which the BJP lost control of Parliament.

Mahanagar has been attacked several times by members of militant Hindu groups. In 1996, hundreds of activists from the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party stormed the newspaper's offices after the paper published criticism of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

In July, police arrested nine suspects and charged them in connection with the attack. However, Wagle told CPJ that no one has been convicted of any of the past attacks on Mahanagar.

AUGUST 24, 2004
Posted: August 27, 2004

Sajid Rashid, Mahanagar

Two unidentified assailants stabbed Rashid, 48, editor of the Marathi-language daily Mahanagar, outside his office in Mumbai on the evening of August 24. Rashid was stabbed twice and was rushed to a local hospital for treatment, according to local press reports. Police launched an investigation into the attack, and were looking at articles written by Rashid to see if they were connected to the attack.

Rashid is affiliated with Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD), a progressive local organization, and has spoken out against the so-called "triple talaq" system, a local Muslim custom relating to divorce whereby a man can divorce his wife simply by uttering "talaq" three times, according to local press accounts.

In July, Rashid and other MSD members approached the Indian Muslim Law Board to discuss the "triple talaq" custom, according to the Express News Service.

Rashid has written extensively on the "triple talaq" issue, and received threats earlier this month that he reported to local police, according to press accounts.

The newspaper is known for its independent stance, according to local journalists, and has been attacked several times.

On June 24, militant members of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stormed Mahanagar's offices, shouting BJP slogans and expressing anger at Mahanagar's editorial line, which they said was anti-BJP, according to the paper's editor-in-chief, Nikhil Wagle.

In July, police arrested nine suspects and charged them in connection with the attack, but there have been no convictions, according to local journalists.

In 1996, hundreds of activists from the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party stormed the newspaper's offices after the paper published criticism of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2004
Posted: September 28, 2004

Rafiq Maqbool, The Associated Press
Amin War, The Tribune

Photographers Rafiq Maqbool of The Associated Press, and Amin War of the national newspaper The Tribune, were beaten by police while covering a violent demonstration in Srinagar, the summer capital of war-torn Kashmir, on September 25.

Maqbool and War were photographing as many as 100 activists from the militant separatist group, the Democratic Liberation Party (DLP), when police turned on them and started beating them with rifle butts and bamboo batons, according to Maqbool. "The police just ignored the rioters. They, instead, starting thrashing us, even though we told them we were photojournalists," Maqbool told CPJ.

Reports from the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) confirmed the attack on the photographers. Photographs provided to CPJ clearly show where Maqbool was beaten on his back and arm.

DLP militants were in the midst of a violent rampage, targeting hotels and restaurants where young couples go out together in public, according to local news reports. The rioters broke windows and furniture, and attacked patrons at the businesses, The Associated Press reported.

IANS quoted one masked activist as he dragged a waiter out of a restaurant as saying that the businesses had been warned to shut down because they had become "centers for vulgarity in public life."

Maqbool and Amin received medical treatment for their injuries. The deputy general of the local police has ordered an official inquiry into the attack on the journalists, according to local press reports.

The DLP, founded by the former hijacker Hashim Qureshi, has previously threatened beauty parlors, movie theaters, and other businesses it considers "obscene and vulgar."

Journalists are frequently targeted by government security forces and separatist groups in Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority population and is claimed by both India and Pakistan. In March 2004, Maqbool was harassed and beaten at a police checkpoint when security officers saw his cameras in his car.

NOVEMBER 1, 2004
Posted: November 9, 2004

As many as 20 journalists from various outlets

Journalists covering the arrival of a government minister at the Karipur airport in Kozhikode in the southern Kerala province came under attack from a large group of the minister's supporters who beat as many as 20 journalists, according to local reporters and news sources.

The Kerala Industries Minister, P. K. Kunhalikutty, is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with a minor. Supporters from the Indian Union Muslim League political party accuse the local media of taking an overly aggressive stance on the accusations.

Photographers and cameraman say that their equipment was damaged by the angry mob, according to a report by the Indo-Asian News Service, a news wire service. A female reporter with Asianet TV, identified as S. Deepa, said as many as 50 supporters verbally abused, beat, and kicked her and her cameraman.

Activists also attacked some of the journalists' vehicles, and threw stones at the office of Indiavision, a private television channel.

Local journalists protested the abuse, demanding that legal action be taken against their assailants and that Kunhalikutty resign from office. The local government launched a judicial probe into the incident on November 3.

NOVEMBER 8, 2004
Posted: November 12, 2004

Dilip Mohapatra, Aji Kagoj

Mohapatra, editor of the Oriya-language newspaper Aji Kagoj, disappeared. His body was discovered the next day on the side of the NH-42 national highway near the village of Bhagirathipur in the eastern state of Orissa with his hands and legs tied and a head wound, the Press Trust of India (PTI), a national newswire service, reported. Local journalists confirmed the murder but knew of no specific motive.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the case to determine whether Mohapatra's murder could be related to his work as a journalist.

A suspect has been detained in the case, according to PTI.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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