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Setting democracy on fire

Setting democracy on fire

The shocking death of journalist Jagendra Singh in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh and his last statements that went viral have triggered a nationwide uproar accusing the Akhilesh Yadav government of backing the accused Minister and his allies.

Jagendra Singh was burnt alive allegedly by a group of policemen and goons allied with Ram Murthi Verma, the State Minister for Dairy Development on June 1. He suffered 60 percent burn injuries and succumbed to death on June 8 in Civil Hospital in Lucknow. Singh had angered Verma through his Facebook posts on his page ‘Shahjahanpur Samachar’ that was frequently updated with reports against the Minister. He wrote extensively against the alleged cases of corruption, illegal mining and also about the gang rape of an anganwadi worker by Verma. The page had a number of followers. He was attacked earlier in April by men closer to the Minister for his posts on Facebook. Ten days before he was attacked, Singh posted in Facebook that he was receiving death threats. “Why did they have to burn me? If the Minister and his people had something against me, they could have hit me and beaten me, instead of pouring kerosene over me and burning”, were his final statements that were recorded in front of the magistrate before he died. It went viral on news channels.

When the incident sparked huge uproar, the officers claimed that Singh committed suicide when they tried to break into his home. But his family alleged that the police officials set him on fire in front of them. Attempts were made to present a seemingly ongoing investigation and the case was diverted. The journalist's family has accused the Samajwadi Party of attempting to lure them with money and government job to withdraw the case in return. The international human rights groups including Amnesty International condemned the attack demanding an investigation. But the Samajwadi Party government is evidently, trying to protect the Minister due to its political interests and at the same time is weighing the impact on the party’s image if the Minister admits his crime. Five policemen, suspected to be involved in Singh’s murder, have now been suspended. But no action have been taken against SP MLA who is the first accused both in Singh’s statements as well as in the FIR. Public Interest Litigation has been filed in Allahabad High Court seeking directions for a CBI probe into the death of Jagendra Singh.

Following the mounting pressure nationwide, Akhilesh Yadav government has ordered a CID probe. Singh’s family has also demanded an investigation from the Centre due to the state government’s futile attempts so far. The tragic incident is anti-democratic and a blatant denial of freedom of expression. It has tarnished India’s image in front of the world countries. The voracious and corrupt politicians and the corporate mafia are gradually tightening its grip on the nation with a strong support extended by the government in power, its Ministers and even the government officials. New harsh laws are being passed to suppress the resistance from the common man and to drive them away from their homes to clear the way for the corporate bigwigs‘s exploitation of natural resources. The Modi government gives priority to the corporate interests over national and social welfare thereby increasing the rate of such happenings. Things are not different in kerala too. Since the present government thrives on the ‘boons’ of the powerful corporate companies, it is unlikely to move against them. Singh’s murder is a perfect example for the Modi government’s pandering to such bigwigs. Hopefully the government would take stringent action against the Minister who is still in the Cabinet and ensure justice to Singh.

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