Championing the cause of the underdog
and politics are the staple of Punjabi news channels. Zee
Punjabi has a special segment on crime — Underworld.
PTC News has intrepid reporters all over the region. Apart from
attracting eyeballs, fair and fearless reporting can help
improve political as well as law and order scenario
significantly. We have seen how the public outcry over police
laxity vis-a-vis the Khushpreet case resulted in prompter
response to Prince’s abduction. Not only was the child saved
but the criminals were also arrested.
The Day and Night
News (DNN) channel is fast emerging as a trendsetter as far as
quality, depth and sweep of news coverage is concerned. Be it
the scam relating to subsidy to farmers of medicinal plants, or
the sex scandal involving a senior HVPN official, the channel
has been quite incisive. But, over the past couple of months, it
has impressed one with its dogged coverage of a seemingly lost
cause — justice for an underdog.
Shera, a resident of Balachaur, was picked up by the local
police and reportedly kept in illegal custody. Thus began Shera’s
tryst with painful death after undergoing a protracted and
soul-sapping ordeal. After escaping from the illegal detention,
Shera reached DNN’s studios and revealed how he was subjected
to unspeakable third degree torture in order to extract
confession of being a Babbar Khalsa activist. The cops also
wanted him to implicate others — they helpfully named some
persons for the purpose.
D&N leads by example
Shera refused to
confess or name anyone, because, he told the news channel, he
knew what they would have to suffer. A scared Shera further said
that he pleaded with the policemen to kill him as he could bear
the torture no more. Out of frustration, the cops decided to
stage a fake encounter and finish him off. When he heard of
their plans he became desperate to escape, and succeeded, too.
On the show he declared that he could recognise all those who
had tortured him even though he was kept blindfolded. Perhaps
the policemen feared as much.
On January 13 the
channel reported that the court had acquitted him from the
charges of being a terrorist and awarded a compensation of Rs
1lakh. However, the then Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana
High Court, Mukul Mudgal, ordered that the compensation be
enhanced to Rs 30 lakh and directed the state government to rein
in the local SHO. In fact Punjab’s Assistant Advocate General
assured the court that Shera and his family would be provided
with security. This should have put an end to the story.
But one had not
reckoned with the Punjab cops. As Justice Mudgal pointed out to
Kanwar Sandhu on the Fair & Square talk show, the
police are extremely powerful; for a person living in the
countryside it is well nigh impossible to get prompt judicial
remedy vis-`E0-vis any police atrocity.
On January 26 the
channel reported Shera’s death after he was attacked. Who
killed him? The police say his enemies among antisocial elements
had done it. But reporters from Nawanshehar point out that the
locals deny any enmity between Shera and others in the area.
Kanwar Sandhu moderated a talk show wherein advocates Amar Singh
Chahal and Rajvinder Singh Bains squarely blamed the Punjab
Bains said that
the policemen had reached the depths of inhumanity and, for
them, to organise such revengeful attacks came naturally.
However, retired DGP of Punjab P. Lal took a legalistic view of
the episode, and SSP Bhargav, Nawanshehar’s district chief,
too, tried to shroud the happenings in bureaucratic legalese.
The humanitarian angle was absolutely absent.
During his last
interview to DNN, Shera displayed distrust in the police force
and gratitude towards the judiciary. He is dead now. Would DNN’s
campaign to get justice for Shera bear fruit?