Dr. Fakira Mohan Nahak
THE TELEVISION NEWS INDUSTRY IN ODISHA HAS GONE THROUGH A PROGRESSIVE JOURNEY IN THE PAST TWO DECADES. IN THIS SERIES DR. FAKIRA MOHAN NAHAK PRESENTS THE MEDIA HISTORY BLENDED WITH HIS CLOSE OBSERVATION ON THE FAST-CHANGING INDUSTRY.
It was October 23, 2006. At that time, Naxal violence was reported regularly in various parts of South and West Odisha. The Odisha Police and the Central paramilitary forces were constantly fighting the Naxal problem. All efforts were being made by the government to end the Naxal menace. Jaswinder Singh, the then Deputy Inspector General of Police (South-west Range) was heading out of the headquarters at Sunabeda in Koraput district towards Padampur in the neighbouring Rayagada district. Accompanying him were his two personal security officers, Sesananda Sarangi and Ashish Sarangi.
The ETV News desk received the news that DIG Jaswinder Singh, who left his office for regular surveillance, was killed in a Naxal attack on the spot. The entire desk was in shock. The killing of a senior IPS officer was the first in the state. No such senior official had been killed before. Santosh Mishra, then Koraput bureau chief of ETV, and Amulya Ratna Sahu, Rayagada district correspondent were contacted to verify the veracity of the news. After confirmation, ETV aired the Breaking News.
Initially, it was reported that DIG Jaswinder Singh was on his way to Padampur when two youth groups stopped his vehicle at two places on the road and demanded money for Kali Puja. Shortly afterwards, a group of Naxals attacked his vehicle near Badakutinga village under Laxmipur police station. The DIG was shot in the head from a point blank range and died on the spot. All of this information was obtained from the two PSOs. The State Home Department, then Home Secretary Tarun Kanti Mishra and Director General of Police Amarananda Patnaik initially commented that it could not be ruled out to call it a heinous act of the Naxals. Once the incident was aired by ETV, various national media started covering the issue.
However, ETV raised few genuine questions. What were the two armed personal security officers doing when the DIG was shot dead by the Naxals in their presence? How did they remain unhurt? Did the Naxals just come to kill the DIG? If so, what was the role of both security guards at the time? All these straight forward questions compelled the state government to think beyond the involvement of Naxals in the case.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident. After thorough investigations and repeated interrogations to the DIG’s two personal security officers, Sesananda and Ashish, it was revealed that DIG Jaswinder Singh had been shot dead by Sesananda Sadangi’s 9mm gun. Three days after the incident, Koraput police arrested both security personnel and took them to court.
Covering the tragic incident was not less than a test for ETV. ETV had proven how efficiently news can be managed.The process of news gathering can be strengthened through thorough coordination and proper communication. Whether it was Amulya Ratna Sahu from Rayagada or Santosh Mishra from Koraput, the Bhubaneswar bureau or reporting from the police headquarters at Cuttack, the news was collected timely and the whole incident was covered on ETV.
ETV was reporting on everything from the autopsy of the late DIG Jaswinder to the delivery of his body to his bereaved family. The slain DIG Jaswinder’s home was in Bodua village in Dashua area of Hoshiarpur district in Punjab. The whole village was mourning the death of the brave son. Rohit Gaur, ETV’s Ludhiana correspondent at that time reported the incident. Even pictures of Jaswinder’s funeral procession reached the viewers.
The grief, resentment and grievances of mother Naseeb Kaur and father Hazara Singh, who were completely devastated by the death of their son, were all conveyed to the audience by ETV. When the two personal security officers, Sesananda and Ashish, were taken to Bangalore for a lie detection test, ETV even covered the news with the help of Bengaluru bureau office. Based on all the news gathered from different places by different reporters, ETV aired a special program titled 9mm.
Later in May 2008, Paramjit Kaur, the widow of the late DIG filed a petition in the Odisha High Court and demanded a CBI probe into her husband’s murder. About five years after the incident, the Koraput additional district and session judge sentenced the convicts in March 2011. Sesananda Sarangi was sentenced to ten years in prison and fined Rs 20,000 for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Asish was also sentenced to three years in prison and fined Rs 10,000 for misleading police, misrepresenting and hiding the truth.
ETV covered all the tit-bits of the incident. The channel once again show cased how news can be gathered, managed and disseminated to the audience efficiently and effectively through proper coordination and appropriate planning. Once again the strength of a news network like that of ETV was realised.
(Dr. Fakira Mohan Nahak is a writer and former media professional. He is currently working as the Head of the Department of University Institute of Media Studies, Chandigarh University at Mohali, Punjab. Views are Personal)
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