Two journalists of the newly launched (and rather awkwardly named) northeast daily, Seven Sister’s Post, are missing after they went into Burma on a story and one of their colleagues reportedly put up a Facebook status update that they had gone in search of the ULFA founder Paresh Baruah.
What initially seemed like good publicity for the paper launched on 11/11/11 and edited by Subir Bhaumik, formerly of the BBC, has quickly become a diplomatic headache for India, not to mention the anxiety for the families of the two detained journalists.
Now journalists from Assam have shot off a letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh (who incidentally represents Assam in the upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha) expressing concern and urging the government to step in. Below is the full text of the letter.
Guwahati, December 6, 2011
Namaskar. Hope this letter finds you in fine spirits and health.
We, on behalf of Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA), would like to inform you that two Assamese journalists remain untraced since their detention in Myanmar (also known as Brahmadesh) on December 3 last. Both the journalists had reportedly gone inside the country for interviewing Paresh Baruah, the self-styled military chief of banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).
The news broke on December 4, 2011, when the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) reported about their detention somewhere in Myanmar-China border areas. The PTI quoted R.K. Singh, Union home secretary for the information. While Singh denied the detention of Paresh Baruah who is at large after fleeing from Bangladesh, he informed that ‘ULFA leader Jivan Moran and an Indian journalist were detained in Myanmar’
Later it was revealed that two journalists (namely Rajib Bhattacharya who works for a newly launched English daily Seven Sister’s Post from Guwahati and a photo-journalist Pradip Gogoi) were detained inside Myanmar.
The chief editor of the newspaper, Subir Bhaumik, who used to work for BBC as East India Correspondent till last year, said in a television interview that his colleague (Rajib Bhattacharya) went to Myanmar in the middle of October last. “It was his project and he was determined to take the assignment,” Subir Bhaumik said adding that he had no
contacts with Rajib Bhattacharya since then.
Rajib’s wife Rashmi Sharma, also a journalist, said in a television bite that she received an SMS weeks ago, where the journalist only said that he was fine and waiting for the interview.
Hiranya Bhattacharya, Rajib’s father and a former DGP of Assam, said in a television bite that he has no information about Rajib going inside Myanmar. “I only knew that Rajib went to Imphal (capital of Manipur) and later he was supposed to move to Aizawl (capital of Mizoram),” Hiranya Bhattacharya said.
The duo (Rajib Bhattacharya and Pradip Gogoi) were reportedly detained in the north-eastern part of Myanmar bordering China and later the Myanmarese authority released both of them after confiscating their laptop, camera and cell phones . Both the journalists were supposed to arrive in Tamu-Moreh (Myanmar-India border point) by the evening of December 4. Rajib’s wife in Guwahati was contacted by some officials in the Union Home Ministry and assured that Rajib was released by the Myanmarese authority and he will soon enter Indian side (by December 4 itself).
But till this moment, both the journalists have not returned to Assam. No information is available with the family about their whereabouts. The Guwahati based journalists contacted the India Embassy in Yangon where the office of the Ambassador denied having any information (about the detention of Indian journalists and subsequent release inside Myanmar).
We have not seen any statement about the incident from the Myanmarese government. Unfortunately the Assam government led by Tarun Gogoi and even the Union Home Ministry have not issued any statement about the incident till date.
We are really worried about the confusing reports regarding the fate of the two journalists, who have neither come back, nor have been traced by any agency. So we would like to make a formal request to you for taking personal interest in this matter, so that journalists Rajib Bhattacharya and Pradip Gogoi are traced and their return to India is ensured at the earliest. The Myanmarese government may also be approached by the PMO for relevant information about the two journalists.
We would be grateful for your kind initiative.
President, Journalists’ Forum Assam
For the record, Subir Bhaumik had claimed to have played a key role in securing the release of a policeman abducted by Naxals in West Bengal two years ago.
Also read: How mainstream media has neglected Manipur