Journalists in Bihar have demanded the immediate release of Navlesh Pathak, editor of an English weekly, who was arrested in connection with the murder of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Raj Kishore Kesri.
Kesri, a BJP legislator from Purnia constituency, was knifed on Jan 4 in his home by a woman teacher, Rupam Pathak, who alleged the politician had raped her for over three years. Navlesh, editor of Purnia based English weekly Quisling, had first reported Pathak's sexual harassment complaint.
Nikhil Anand, political editor of News India, Bihar, claimed Navlesh was arrested to suppress evidence in the case to save the skin of some top ruling party leaders who are alleged to be involved in it. "Navlesh is innocent and should be released," he said.
Ajay Kumar, editor of Patna based newsportal Bihartimes.com, said, "I demand the immediate release of Navlesh Pathak. He should be rewarded for his bold journalism as he exposed a true story."
Police arrested Navlesh on Thursday after a police complaint was registered in the case against three people, including Pathak, by Kesri's nephew. A Bihar court on Friday sent him to judicial custody for 14 days.
Dhruv Kumar, a senior journalist, said Navlesh should be freed immediately. "I urge Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to show respect for freedom of the press by releasing Navlesh Pathak without further delay," he said.
Irshadul Haque, Tehelka magazine's senior correspondent in Bihar, told IANS that not only should Navlesh be released but he should also get compensation from the state government.
"The people behind the conspiracy against the media in general and particularly for the courage of Navlesh Pathak must be put behind bars. Nitish Kumar should act over it," he said.
Irshadul said, "Is it a crime to report the truth? Police have arrested him under political pressure to suppress his voice."
Another journalist, Santosh, a reporter for ETV Bihar, said, "Navlesh Pathak is a responsible man. Editing an English weekly newspaper in a small town like Purnia, he dared to expose a big story but was arrested after being named as accused. There are hundreds of prime accused in serious crime cases who are roaming free in Bihar."
Amit Kumar, chief reporter with Bihar's leading Hindi magazine Tapman, said, "It is an irony that Bihar police have arrested Navlesh Pathak for no crime but Kesri's close associate Vipin Rai, accused of sexually exploiting Rupam Pathak, is roaming free. The state government should arrest Rai."
A group of journalists in Patna has started a signature campaign for Navlesh Pathak's release and is planning to state a protest.
A senior journalist who did not wish to be named said Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, soon after Kesri's killing, shrugged off the editor's arrest saying his weekly was a small, insignificant publication.
Ruma, Navlesh Pathak's wife, alleges that police have been biased in their investigations and apprehends a threat to him in custody.
The news of Kesri's killing spread rapidly across Bihar, where the BJP is the junior ally of Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United (JD-U) led government.
Rupam Pathak, around 40, went to Kesri's home in Purnia and stabbed him to death in the presence of a number of people. Rupam was badly beaten up by Kesri's security guards and supporters following the murder. She alleged that Kesri, 51, had raped her for over three years, a charge refuted by the party.
A Bihar court Thursday sent Pathak to judicial custody for 14 days, officials said. Nitish Kumar Saturday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the murder following a hue and cry by opposition and women organisations.