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Brave newspaper which covered karsewaks’ terror feels the heat

Janmorcha, a newspaper that comes out from Faizabad District is facing the ire of BJP and its sister organizations for its bold reporting over the Ayodhya episode early this year. This newspaper was the only publication that gave extensive coverage to the terror unleashed by the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists upon common people particularly Muslims during February and March when the VHP was going steady with its shila daan programme.

During the two months leading to 15 March when the VHP had announced to offer Shila Dan the unruly karsevaks played havoc with the people in Faizabad, Ayodhya as well as in trains. The Karsevaks or Ramsevaks as they were being called this time had descended in Ayodhya from all over India especially from Gujarat and Maharashtra. They were reported to be harassing Muslim men, women and children and forced them to chant Jai Shri Ram and other provocative slogans. They harassed and beat passenger and threw several people out of moving trains who refused to comply with their demands.

Janmorcha is run by a cooperative society of its employees. Faizabad administration led by BP Mishra struck off the names of 56 members of the cooperative, including its editor Shitla Singh from the voting list. The election process for the cooperative that runs the paper is currently underway. 

‘Janmorcha has been repeatedly writing about the district administration’s anti-media attitude. We published a series of stories highlighting the state of affairs during the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s shila-daan programme in March. This naturally irked the district magistrate. Then there were a number of clashes between the journalists and the district authorities and we always were at the forefront. Our reportage on the Gujarat incidents was also harsh and critical of the BJP. All this had a cumulative effect and the government is now making an attempt to destroy the paper’s cooperative ownership,’ Janmorcha editor Shitla Singh says. 

Janmorcha reports about the unruly and provocative behavior of the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists in trains and their attacks against Muslim men and women has been extensively quoted as the reason for Godhra incident. The paper repeatedly published stories as to how the VHP vandals attacked Muslim women, tore off their veils and forced them to chant Jai Shri Ram.

According to Mr Singh, the Faizabad administration first tried to appoint an administrator but timely intervention by the cooperative department officials saved the day for the newspaper. Then the district magistrate got the returning officer to strike off 56 names from the voters list and include those people who had either left the organization or had retired from the paper. 

The editor alleges that the district administration attempted to create divisions within the employees working with the paper and force an election. During the last 43 years, elections for the Janmorcha’s cooperative society have been unanimous.

However, Janmorcha staffers suspect that administration can continue anti-Janmorcha campaign. ‘We apprehend that there could be more attempts to muzzle the paper and its employees and what is making things worse is the fact that the district magistrate enjoys political patronage from senior BJP leaders and therefore does whatever he feels like’ says Suma Gupta, Janmorcha assistant editor. 

Despite all these tactics to silence the courageous voice of Janmorcha, its employees are determined to continue their great work despite all odds. ‘We have survived against all odds and once again we will prove that small is not only beautiful but it can also be powerful’ says Gupta.

¯ MG correspondent

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