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Recalling Gone-by Days

Engr. S. A. Mansoor

As the saying goes: ‘Memories are treasures; no one can steal’! It begins from early 1940s; recalling our times when we lived in in Calcutta; which was once the capital of India, during earlier colonial British era! We resided in the then Waliullah Lane (its name has now changed). Our house was around twenty five yards from the eastern side of (then) Wellessly Square, which had a swimming club, (no longer there) with a three storied (wooden) diving board, the top of which was about more than thirty feet above the pool’s water level! The members then were mostly Englishmen and women (till say 19454), later to be joined by Anglo Indians and a few enthusiastic local swimmers and divers too!
For us children, between 6 to 10 year old; watching the swimming and various styles of diving; both forward and back dives; was a way to pass our evenings, as most of us lived within around hundred yards of the Wellessly Square; that was named after some British governor of then Bengal.
Our extended family, with many of our uncles, also lived in a number of houses along the then Walliullah Lane. Right opposite our door was the very wide opening of the mosque. Here regular prayers five times daily was offered. My late mother made it a point, that I should offer daily evening (Magrib) prayers there; if it was not raining; since I was very often suffering from cough and cold, and mild fever, when in rain! It was cured after my tonsils were removed, at the then Calcutta Medical College! At the other north-west corner of Wellesly Square; on Welleslly Street; was a huge and magnificent church; a prominent local landmark! Here Christians (Roman Catholics or possibly Protestants) offered their Sunday services! About two hundred yards on the eastern side of our house, on Waliullah Lane; there was a small Methodist church; more of a plain one stories large room, where mostly local converts and South Indian families living nearby; congregated for Sunday Mass!
Another memory that I pleasantly recall; was my habit of daily reading the local English newspapers, next door at 14, Waliullah lane, were our bachelor learned Uncle (Late Dr. Abu Sayeeed Ayub) lived; alone in his small flat! Of the many news papers and two magazines (all English) that he read regularly; I still recall “The Statesman”, and the “Illustrated Weekly of India”, that I too regularly! He was a scholar; and had done his P.Hd in Philosophy from Berlin University in the 1930s! His pastime was playing billiards in his drawing room which was quite a big room. There he had his billiard table, in the middle of the room! As I was curious about the game; he sometimes indulged me to take a few shots; after teaching me how to handle the long cue safely! To sum up; I learned to play billiards; when I was under ten years old! Seeing my habit of going through his newspapers, he encouraged me to read the sports page and also go for the children’s weekly quiz published in the ‘Sunday Statesman’; a top class English daily of then India!
From this pastime; I developed my habit of reading newspapers usually then only the sports page! He and his very close friend Syed Mujtaba Ali(a renowned writer in then India); who very often visited him, and stayed with him for a few days; both being bachelors! Both of them married very late in their lives! My uncle had two servants to serve him and Mujtaba uncle (as I called him); when he was there for a few days. They had their breakfast and evening tea only. They kept the house and all furniture in tip-top condition! However my uncle and often both he and Mujtaba uncle (when he visited); both however had their lunch and dinner in our house next door at 15, Walliullah Llane; as they relished my mother’s tasty dishes over lunch and dinner with us!
Schooling started for me in 1946. I was admitted to St. Xaviers School in Park Street; about a mile from our house. However, once the communal riot started in August 1946; my mother felt it unsafe for me, walking alone to go so far to school! I was later (after riots) admitted to St. Anthony’s School, located in Market Street off the southern end of the Calcutta New Market; then the largest market in India; as we were told! The school was around ten minutes walk from our house, and in a Muslim locality; so my mother felt safer for me to walk down to school! Using the riots as a valid excuse for not going to school for safety; I got myself admitted in Class 7 at St. Anthony’s! I continued studying there, till mid 1947. When more serious communal riots started again; after partition of India; my mother (a widow since 1937) was very scared, and we soon after left for Pakistan in late October 1947!
We stayed with my married elder sister in Barisal; where my brother-in-law was working! I was however sent from Barisal to Chittagong, where my maternal uncle (late Dr. Md. Ibrahim), was the Civil Surgeon. There I joined the St. Placid’s School; run by Canadian missionaries! Using the excuse of Calcutta riots and my inability to attend school for safety of life for about a year; I got myself admitted in Class 10; though in Calcutta I was reading in class 8! The brothers (particularly Bro. Bertine); the then head-master; kindly took me in class 10 directly! Further he arranged special coaching for me by some teachers (all catholic priests) who coached me, on one to one basis, by special arrangement, during midday break and an hour again just after school ended at 3pm! This special private teaching during school hours by other Brothers in school; helped me to catch up, and updated my knowledge! More so; as that was the last year when matriculation examination in East Pakistan was held under Calcutta University syllabus! I will never forget this help from Bro. Bertine for his kindness and special help; that enabled me in passing Matriculation!
When the results came out; I heaved a sign of relief, since apart from Urdu, I had done well in all other subjects! However there was a note with my mark sheet, stating that I was given ten grace marks for Urdu (based on my background of reading the Holy Quran) the local vernacular! However, for that my division was reduced from 1st to 2nd division, despite my total average marks; including the actual 25 out of 100 that I got in Urdu, was well over 68%! Next I joined Chittagong College, and was again compelled to take Urdu as vernacular! Luckily the College professor recognized me from my name; and as he was a close friend of my father in Calcutta in 1930s, and also came from Calcutta, after the partition of India! He volunteered to coach me, free of cost; being my fathers close friend; to help improve my knowledge and skills in Urdu; so that I could pass the final I.Sc examination. He gave me eight questions with their answers; and told me to get the answers totally and faithfully memorized! Imagine my surprise when I found four of the questions were the ones that he gave to me to memorize! Imagine my surprise; and the result was that I passed in first division with overall average of over 70 percent of total marks! I then happily enjoyed the occasion of finally stopping Urdu studies; by burning off all the Urdu text books and the question and answered notes prepared by my Urdu professor! That was a great relief to me; and my final divorce from Urdu language!
One of the side effects of my poor knowledge of Arabic, is my very slow speed in reading the Holy Quran in Arabic, because the Arabic! However I always read the English phonetic transcript of the Arabic version of the Holy Quran; and given my speed of reading in English; I usually finish reciting the Quran in two or three days; regularly reading it after offering five mandatory prayers daily! This habit was inculcated in me, by my late mother, who read the Quran and offered daily prayers, as long as I remember, throughout her life! She passed away in December 1949; while I was in Chittagong college; staying with my elder brother who was posted there; after coming to Pakistan on partition of India!
In 1950, I joined the then Ahsanullah Engineering College (later BUET); where my maternal uncle, an engineer was an Asst. Professor in Mechanical Engineering. He encouraged me to go for the newly opened Metallurgical Engineering faculty; as he said that he can teach me all that was needed and important in Mechanical Engineering so that I could be as good as any professional mechanical engineer! My career later confirmed this; as a few years later in Khulna Newsprint Mill (KNM); then under the management of Sandwell Ltd. a Canadian company running the KNM then the highest speed paper machine, running anywhere in Pakistan! Under their fair and impartial management; I was promoted as Head of the Mechanical Maintenance of the factory complex; responsible for the integrated pulp and paper mill staring from Gewa wood logs, coming from from Sunderbans forest and finishing as newsprint and mechanical printing paper, that was supplied to both East and West Pakistan! However once the then EPIDC took over management of the mill; influence peddling and contacts with people in power at the government became the criteria for professional advancement, and I resigned from there and joined the then Pakistan Oxygen Company producer of oxygen, Acetylene and other gases; both for industrial and also medical uses!
A few years later, when the Chittagong Steel Mill (CSM) was set up in East Pakistan, I joined EPIDC and was sent on training for steel making to Japan for training in steel industries and I joined the mill set up in Chittagong! However, the management of the unit was quite corrupt; and many officials of the EPID Dhaka head office practiced influence peddling; and our work became very difficult under these circumstances! I left Chittagong Steel Mill and joined the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce; who with financial help from UNDP; were setting up a team of management consultants to help improving productivity in the many industries in and around Chittagong! For this training in consultancy; we were sent to Turkey at the Turkish Management Development Center and from there to UK at the Henley Staff College for higher training!
However political matters in East Pakistan came to a head; that led to the Indo-Pakistan war, culminating in the creation of Bangladesh! This curtailed our activities; as most industries were owned by non-Bangalis; and as such were more or less idle or abandoned by the Pakistani owners, after the war of independence! I then joined the Textile Corporation of Bangladesh; where I was given the proud assignment of setting up the first post independence textile factory (Eagle Star Textile Mill) in Bangladesh! The equipment was there; all lying around, in a store shed on bare open land, with hilly slope at the back and one side! Surprisingly, the Spinning Master was a Khoja Muslim, who could not speak Bangla; but I explained to the workers that he was not a Pakistani; but like me from India; now settled in Bangladesh! He was a very sincere and experienced hand in textile spinning! In a remarkable example of teamwork, we converted the cotton storage shed in that abandoned Fauzdarhat site to set up the first industry established in Bangladesh! Our thousand spindle spinning mill, was in production within the record time of three months; from crates of textile machines imported just before Indo-Pakistan war! It was all lying there in the open! I modified the drive of the spinning frames and increased the spinning speed from 1000 to 1200 rpm; without telling the Textile Corporation about it! Imagine the surprise at the textile Corporation HO in Dhaka, when they learn that a textile mill set up by an Engineer with not a day’s experience in textile equipment and yarn spinning; was operating a spinning mill at over 95% efficiency! Based on Textile Corporation’s monthly performance report we were the spinning mill with the highest overall yield of yarn; for a long time; thanks to my in-house drive modification; resulting in higher spinning speed!
Suddenly, an order came from the Industries ministry (it was directed by Bongo Bondhu, as I came to know later!), appointing me as General Manager of then Chittagong Steel Mills, from where I had earlier resigned in Pakistan days! However once again corruption rose its ugly head there! However I took very positive and strong disciplinary actions to ensure discipline in the factory complex; where we manufactured galvanized sheets; mild steel plates, angles and rods; starting from limestone, pig iron, steel scrap and zinc as raw materials! To ensure discipline; that was very poor; I terminating some officers and many lower level personnel, including some workers who were so-called then Awami League activist and local Awami League leaders close associates; who felt that they were above any work discipline! Those who were involved in unacceptable deeds; including getting regular bribes from local suppliers were all terminated from service; and as per Bongo Bondhu’s instructions the local political leaders of that area, were instructed to keep there hands off from our factory administration and management matters! Hence, there was no resulting labor protests in our factory, even in those troubled times!
Finally to conclude with a few words, that steered me trough the last few decades of love and happiness till the sad demise of my life’s beloved partner in November 2017! We first met in my last year (1954) at the Ahsanullah Engineering College, while living in our new college hostel on the then Bokshibazar Road. Right across our hostel entrance; was the Eden Girls College Hostel! I used to like a tall girl, was living in that hostel. She was over 5ft.7in, having very long hair, literally up to her knees! For me, it was actually love at first sight! Gradually I came to know her elder brother, her local guardian; who some times came to visit her at her hostel. I found out that he was working in Dhaka in a private organization! After passing Engineering and starting to work, I managed to meet him, and proposed to marry his younger sister. He liked me, and agreed to the idea; despite the fact that my then local guardian; my maternal uncle and a sort of guardian; as I was an orphan. Despite his opposition; I married her in July 1955.We lived together from that day till end October 2917; a life of love, happiness and togetherness! Unfortunately my wife passed away; on the last day of November his year; leaving me totally lonely and alone; eagerly awaiting my end!

Comment

Engr. S. A. Mansoor

As the saying goes: ‘Memories are treasures; no one can steal’! It begins from early 1940s; recalling our times when we lived in in Calcutta; which was once the capital of India, during earlier colonial British era! We resided in the then Waliullah Lane (its name has now changed). Our house was around twenty five yards from the eastern side of (then) Wellessly Square, which had a swimming club, (no longer there) with a three storied (wooden) diving board, the top of which was about more than thirty feet above the pool’s water level! The members then were mostly Englishmen and women (till say 19454), later to be joined by Anglo Indians and a few enthusiastic local swimmers and divers too!
For us children, between 6 to 10 year old; watching the swimming and various styles of diving; both forward and back dives; was a way to pass our evenings, as most of us lived within around hundred yards of the Wellessly Square; that was named after some British governor of then Bengal.
Our extended family, with many of our uncles, also lived in a number of houses along the then Walliullah Lane. Right opposite our door was the very wide opening of the mosque. Here regular prayers five times daily was offered. My late mother made it a point, that I should offer daily evening (Magrib) prayers there; if it was not raining; since I was very often suffering from cough and cold, and mild fever, when in rain! It was cured after my tonsils were removed, at the then Calcutta Medical College! At the other north-west corner of Wellesly Square; on Welleslly Street; was a huge and magnificent church; a prominent local landmark! Here Christians (Roman Catholics or possibly Protestants) offered their Sunday services! About two hundred yards on the eastern side of our house, on Waliullah Lane; there was a small Methodist church; more of a plain one stories large room, where mostly local converts and South Indian families living nearby; congregated for Sunday Mass!
Another memory that I pleasantly recall; was my habit of daily reading the local English newspapers, next door at 14, Waliullah lane, were our bachelor learned Uncle (Late Dr. Abu Sayeeed Ayub) lived; alone in his small flat! Of the many news papers and two magazines (all English) that he read regularly; I still recall “The Statesman”, and the “Illustrated Weekly of India”, that I too regularly! He was a scholar; and had done his P.Hd in Philosophy from Berlin University in the 1930s! His pastime was playing billiards in his drawing room which was quite a big room. There he had his billiard table, in the middle of the room! As I was curious about the game; he sometimes indulged me to take a few shots; after teaching me how to handle the long cue safely! To sum up; I learned to play billiards; when I was under ten years old! Seeing my habit of going through his newspapers, he encouraged me to read the sports page and also go for the children’s weekly quiz published in the ‘Sunday Statesman’; a top class English daily of then India!
From this pastime; I developed my habit of reading newspapers usually then only the sports page! He and his very close friend Syed Mujtaba Ali(a renowned writer in then India); who very often visited him, and stayed with him for a few days; both being bachelors! Both of them married very late in their lives! My uncle had two servants to serve him and Mujtaba uncle (as I called him); when he was there for a few days. They had their breakfast and evening tea only. They kept the house and all furniture in tip-top condition! However my uncle and often both he and Mujtaba uncle (when he visited); both however had their lunch and dinner in our house next door at 15, Walliullah Llane; as they relished my mother’s tasty dishes over lunch and dinner with us!
Schooling started for me in 1946. I was admitted to St. Xaviers School in Park Street; about a mile from our house. However, once the communal riot started in August 1946; my mother felt it unsafe for me, walking alone to go so far to school! I was later (after riots) admitted to St. Anthony’s School, located in Market Street off the southern end of the Calcutta New Market; then the largest market in India; as we were told! The school was around ten minutes walk from our house, and in a Muslim locality; so my mother felt safer for me to walk down to school! Using the riots as a valid excuse for not going to school for safety; I got myself admitted in Class 7 at St. Anthony’s! I continued studying there, till mid 1947. When more serious communal riots started again; after partition of India; my mother (a widow since 1937) was very scared, and we soon after left for Pakistan in late October 1947!
We stayed with my married elder sister in Barisal; where my brother-in-law was working! I was however sent from Barisal to Chittagong, where my maternal uncle (late Dr. Md. Ibrahim), was the Civil Surgeon. There I joined the St. Placid’s School; run by Canadian missionaries! Using the excuse of Calcutta riots and my inability to attend school for safety of life for about a year; I got myself admitted in Class 10; though in Calcutta I was reading in class 8! The brothers (particularly Bro. Bertine); the then head-master; kindly took me in class 10 directly! Further he arranged special coaching for me by some teachers (all catholic priests) who coached me, on one to one basis, by special arrangement, during midday break and an hour again just after school ended at 3pm! This special private teaching during school hours by other Brothers in school; helped me to catch up, and updated my knowledge! More so; as that was the last year when matriculation examination in East Pakistan was held under Calcutta University syllabus! I will never forget this help from Bro. Bertine for his kindness and special help; that enabled me in passing Matriculation!
When the results came out; I heaved a sign of relief, since apart from Urdu, I had done well in all other subjects! However there was a note with my mark sheet, stating that I was given ten grace marks for Urdu (based on my background of reading the Holy Quran) the local vernacular! However, for that my division was reduced from 1st to 2nd division, despite my total average marks; including the actual 25 out of 100 that I got in Urdu, was well over 68%! Next I joined Chittagong College, and was again compelled to take Urdu as vernacular! Luckily the College professor recognized me from my name; and as he was a close friend of my father in Calcutta in 1930s, and also came from Calcutta, after the partition of India! He volunteered to coach me, free of cost; being my fathers close friend; to help improve my knowledge and skills in Urdu; so that I could pass the final I.Sc examination. He gave me eight questions with their answers; and told me to get the answers totally and faithfully memorized! Imagine my surprise when I found four of the questions were the ones that he gave to me to memorize! Imagine my surprise; and the result was that I passed in first division with overall average of over 70 percent of total marks! I then happily enjoyed the occasion of finally stopping Urdu studies; by burning off all the Urdu text books and the question and answered notes prepared by my Urdu professor! That was a great relief to me; and my final divorce from Urdu language!
One of the side effects of my poor knowledge of Arabic, is my very slow speed in reading the Holy Quran in Arabic, because the Arabic! However I always read the English phonetic transcript of the Arabic version of the Holy Quran; and given my speed of reading in English; I usually finish reciting the Quran in two or three days; regularly reading it after offering five mandatory prayers daily! This habit was inculcated in me, by my late mother, who read the Quran and offered daily prayers, as long as I remember, throughout her life! She passed away in December 1949; while I was in Chittagong college; staying with my elder brother who was posted there; after coming to Pakistan on partition of India!
In 1950, I joined the then Ahsanullah Engineering College (later BUET); where my maternal uncle, an engineer was an Asst. Professor in Mechanical Engineering. He encouraged me to go for the newly opened Metallurgical Engineering faculty; as he said that he can teach me all that was needed and important in Mechanical Engineering so that I could be as good as any professional mechanical engineer! My career later confirmed this; as a few years later in Khulna Newsprint Mill (KNM); then under the management of Sandwell Ltd. a Canadian company running the KNM then the highest speed paper machine, running anywhere in Pakistan! Under their fair and impartial management; I was promoted as Head of the Mechanical Maintenance of the factory complex; responsible for the integrated pulp and paper mill staring from Gewa wood logs, coming from from Sunderbans forest and finishing as newsprint and mechanical printing paper, that was supplied to both East and West Pakistan! However once the then EPIDC took over management of the mill; influence peddling and contacts with people in power at the government became the criteria for professional advancement, and I resigned from there and joined the then Pakistan Oxygen Company producer of oxygen, Acetylene and other gases; both for industrial and also medical uses!
A few years later, when the Chittagong Steel Mill (CSM) was set up in East Pakistan, I joined EPIDC and was sent on training for steel making to Japan for training in steel industries and I joined the mill set up in Chittagong! However, the management of the unit was quite corrupt; and many officials of the EPID Dhaka head office practiced influence peddling; and our work became very difficult under these circumstances! I left Chittagong Steel Mill and joined the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce; who with financial help from UNDP; were setting up a team of management consultants to help improving productivity in the many industries in and around Chittagong! For this training in consultancy; we were sent to Turkey at the Turkish Management Development Center and from there to UK at the Henley Staff College for higher training!
However political matters in East Pakistan came to a head; that led to the Indo-Pakistan war, culminating in the creation of Bangladesh! This curtailed our activities; as most industries were owned by non-Bangalis; and as such were more or less idle or abandoned by the Pakistani owners, after the war of independence! I then joined the Textile Corporation of Bangladesh; where I was given the proud assignment of setting up the first post independence textile factory (Eagle Star Textile Mill) in Bangladesh! The equipment was there; all lying around, in a store shed on bare open land, with hilly slope at the back and one side! Surprisingly, the Spinning Master was a Khoja Muslim, who could not speak Bangla; but I explained to the workers that he was not a Pakistani; but like me from India; now settled in Bangladesh! He was a very sincere and experienced hand in textile spinning! In a remarkable example of teamwork, we converted the cotton storage shed in that abandoned Fauzdarhat site to set up the first industry established in Bangladesh! Our thousand spindle spinning mill, was in production within the record time of three months; from crates of textile machines imported just before Indo-Pakistan war! It was all lying there in the open! I modified the drive of the spinning frames and increased the spinning speed from 1000 to 1200 rpm; without telling the Textile Corporation about it! Imagine the surprise at the textile Corporation HO in Dhaka, when they learn that a textile mill set up by an Engineer with not a day’s experience in textile equipment and yarn spinning; was operating a spinning mill at over 95% efficiency! Based on Textile Corporation’s monthly performance report we were the spinning mill with the highest overall yield of yarn; for a long time; thanks to my in-house drive modification; resulting in higher spinning speed!
Suddenly, an order came from the Industries ministry (it was directed by Bongo Bondhu, as I came to know later!), appointing me as General Manager of then Chittagong Steel Mills, from where I had earlier resigned in Pakistan days! However once again corruption rose its ugly head there! However I took very positive and strong disciplinary actions to ensure discipline in the factory complex; where we manufactured galvanized sheets; mild steel plates, angles and rods; starting from limestone, pig iron, steel scrap and zinc as raw materials! To ensure discipline; that was very poor; I terminating some officers and many lower level personnel, including some workers who were so-called then Awami League activist and local Awami League leaders close associates; who felt that they were above any work discipline! Those who were involved in unacceptable deeds; including getting regular bribes from local suppliers were all terminated from service; and as per Bongo Bondhu’s instructions the local political leaders of that area, were instructed to keep there hands off from our factory administration and management matters! Hence, there was no resulting labor protests in our factory, even in those troubled times!
Finally to conclude with a few words, that steered me trough the last few decades of love and happiness till the sad demise of my life’s beloved partner in November 2017! We first met in my last year (1954) at the Ahsanullah Engineering College, while living in our new college hostel on the then Bokshibazar Road. Right across our hostel entrance; was the Eden Girls College Hostel! I used to like a tall girl, was living in that hostel. She was over 5ft.7in, having very long hair, literally up to her knees! For me, it was actually love at first sight! Gradually I came to know her elder brother, her local guardian; who some times came to visit her at her hostel. I found out that he was working in Dhaka in a private organization! After passing Engineering and starting to work, I managed to meet him, and proposed to marry his younger sister. He liked me, and agreed to the idea; despite the fact that my then local guardian; my maternal uncle and a sort of guardian; as I was an orphan. Despite his opposition; I married her in July 1955.We lived together from that day till end October 2917; a life of love, happiness and togetherness! Unfortunately my wife passed away; on the last day of November his year; leaving me totally lonely and alone; eagerly awaiting my end!


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Comments: May Allah rest her soul in Jannatul Ferdaus. I am a fan of your writing full of wisdom.
Commented by : Mohammad Hesham



Indian journalists seek national safety plan

A Correspondent

India, while looking back at 2017, finds itself in an awkward position with the annual statistics of 12 journalists either murdered or killed in suspicious situations. The largest democracy in the globe, thus emerges as a hazardous place for media persons after the likes of Mexico, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The killing spree of media persons in India started with Hari Prakash (on January 2) and by the end of 2017 the country lost Brajesh Kumar Singh (January 3), Shyam Sharma (May 15), Kamlesh Jain (May 31), Surender Singh Rana (July 29), Gauri Lankesh (September 5), Shantanu Bhowmik (September 20), KJ Singh (September 23), Rajesh Mishra (October 21), Sudip Datta Bhaumik (November 21), Naveen Gupta (November 30) and Rajesh Sheoran (December 21). On an average, India loses five to six journalists annually to assailants, where the perpetrators normally enjoy impunity as the public outbursts against those murders remain lukewarm. However the horrific murder of Kannada editor-journalist Ms Gauri at her Bangaluru (earlier known as Bangalore) residence sparked massive protests across the country.
As the news of Gauri’s murder by unidentified gunmen spread, it immediately caught the attention of various national and international media rights organizations. Everyone outrightly condemned the incident and demanded actions against the culprits. Even the Communist leader and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar was influenced by the protest-demonstrations. He personally joined in a rally at Agartala demanding justice over Gauri’s brutal killing, but when the young television reporter from his State fall prey to mob violence, he preferred to remain silent.
The Tripura based journalists, while strongly condemning the murder of Shantanu, had to demand a response from Sarkar. Later one more journalist’s (Sudip Datta) murder, also by a trooper belonged to the State police forces put Sarkar in an uncomfortable position. The otherwise popular chief minister, who also holds the State home portfolio, was accorded with blames that the Bangladesh bordering State had earlier witnessed the murder of three media employees Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh together in 2013. Otherwise, the central Indian States like Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana etc remained the killing field of journalists for years and most of the journo casualties were reported from this zone. Most of the cases have not been resolved legally and the victim families continue crying for justice. India is ranked 136th among 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index (2017) of Reporters Sans Frontiers and the country is just ahead of its neighbours Pakistan (139), Sri Lanka (141) and Bangladesh (146). Norway tops the list of media freedom index, whereas one party-ruled North Korea (180) is placed at its bottom. India’s other neighbours namely Bhutan (84), Nepal (100), Maldives (117), Afghanistan (120) and Myanmar (131) ensure better press freedom. India’s troubled neighbor Pakistan lost seven professional journalists and a media student to assailants in 2017. Its other neighbours Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives witnessed the murder of one scribe each in the last 12 months.
According to various international agencies, over 95 mediapersons spread in 28 countries were killed in connection with their professional works since the beginning of 2017. The statistics were however more alarming in previous years (120 killed in 2016, 125 in 2015, 135 in 2014, 129 in 2013, 141 in 2012, 107 in 2011, 110 in 2010, 122 in 2009, 91 in 2008).
The situation has deteriorated in Mexico (14 incidents of journo-killings), Syria (12), Iraq (9), Afghanistan (8), Yemen (8), the Philippines (6), Somalia (5), Honduras (4), Honduras (4), Nigeria (3), Russia (3), Turkey (3), Yemen (3), Guatemala (2), Peru (2), Dominican Republic (2), Colombia (2) etc emerged as dangerous countries for professional journalists in the bygone year. This apart, 262 journalists were sent to jail in different countries, a negligible improvement to 259 media persons imprisoned worldwide in 2016. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey still topped the list of detainees in 2017 with 73 scribes behind bars, followed by China (41), Egypt (20), Eritrea (15), Vietnam (10), Azerbaijan (10), Uganda (8), Saudi Arabia (7), Bangladesh (4), Myanmar (3), Cambodia (2), Pakistan (2) and India (2). In 2016, India witnessed the targeted killings of six working journalists, which was preceded by five cases in 2015. The country improved its statistics in 2014 with the murders of only two scribes, but the year 2013 reported the killings of 11 journalists including three media workers in northeast India.
The vibrant Indian media fraternity observed an unusual Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 in 2017 to raise voices for ensuring safety, security and justice for working journalists across the country. Different press clubs, media bodies and civil society organisations also organized various demonstrations in support of their demands. The vulnerable media community of the 1-billion nation continues pursuing a national action plan to safeguard media persons in the line of military personnel, police and doctors on duty. Their arguments are loud and clear — if the nation wants journalists to do their risky job for society’s greater interest, their security along with justice must also be ensured.

Comment

A Correspondent

India, while looking back at 2017, finds itself in an awkward position with the annual statistics of 12 journalists either murdered or killed in suspicious situations. The largest democracy in the globe, thus emerges as a hazardous place for media persons after the likes of Mexico, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The killing spree of media persons in India started with Hari Prakash (on January 2) and by the end of 2017 the country lost Brajesh Kumar Singh (January 3), Shyam Sharma (May 15), Kamlesh Jain (May 31), Surender Singh Rana (July 29), Gauri Lankesh (September 5), Shantanu Bhowmik (September 20), KJ Singh (September 23), Rajesh Mishra (October 21), Sudip Datta Bhaumik (November 21), Naveen Gupta (November 30) and Rajesh Sheoran (December 21). On an average, India loses five to six journalists annually to assailants, where the perpetrators normally enjoy impunity as the public outbursts against those murders remain lukewarm. However the horrific murder of Kannada editor-journalist Ms Gauri at her Bangaluru (earlier known as Bangalore) residence sparked massive protests across the country.
As the news of Gauri’s murder by unidentified gunmen spread, it immediately caught the attention of various national and international media rights organizations. Everyone outrightly condemned the incident and demanded actions against the culprits. Even the Communist leader and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar was influenced by the protest-demonstrations. He personally joined in a rally at Agartala demanding justice over Gauri’s brutal killing, but when the young television reporter from his State fall prey to mob violence, he preferred to remain silent.
The Tripura based journalists, while strongly condemning the murder of Shantanu, had to demand a response from Sarkar. Later one more journalist’s (Sudip Datta) murder, also by a trooper belonged to the State police forces put Sarkar in an uncomfortable position. The otherwise popular chief minister, who also holds the State home portfolio, was accorded with blames that the Bangladesh bordering State had earlier witnessed the murder of three media employees Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh together in 2013. Otherwise, the central Indian States like Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana etc remained the killing field of journalists for years and most of the journo casualties were reported from this zone. Most of the cases have not been resolved legally and the victim families continue crying for justice. India is ranked 136th among 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index (2017) of Reporters Sans Frontiers and the country is just ahead of its neighbours Pakistan (139), Sri Lanka (141) and Bangladesh (146). Norway tops the list of media freedom index, whereas one party-ruled North Korea (180) is placed at its bottom. India’s other neighbours namely Bhutan (84), Nepal (100), Maldives (117), Afghanistan (120) and Myanmar (131) ensure better press freedom. India’s troubled neighbor Pakistan lost seven professional journalists and a media student to assailants in 2017. Its other neighbours Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives witnessed the murder of one scribe each in the last 12 months.
According to various international agencies, over 95 mediapersons spread in 28 countries were killed in connection with their professional works since the beginning of 2017. The statistics were however more alarming in previous years (120 killed in 2016, 125 in 2015, 135 in 2014, 129 in 2013, 141 in 2012, 107 in 2011, 110 in 2010, 122 in 2009, 91 in 2008).
The situation has deteriorated in Mexico (14 incidents of journo-killings), Syria (12), Iraq (9), Afghanistan (8), Yemen (8), the Philippines (6), Somalia (5), Honduras (4), Honduras (4), Nigeria (3), Russia (3), Turkey (3), Yemen (3), Guatemala (2), Peru (2), Dominican Republic (2), Colombia (2) etc emerged as dangerous countries for professional journalists in the bygone year. This apart, 262 journalists were sent to jail in different countries, a negligible improvement to 259 media persons imprisoned worldwide in 2016. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey still topped the list of detainees in 2017 with 73 scribes behind bars, followed by China (41), Egypt (20), Eritrea (15), Vietnam (10), Azerbaijan (10), Uganda (8), Saudi Arabia (7), Bangladesh (4), Myanmar (3), Cambodia (2), Pakistan (2) and India (2). In 2016, India witnessed the targeted killings of six working journalists, which was preceded by five cases in 2015. The country improved its statistics in 2014 with the murders of only two scribes, but the year 2013 reported the killings of 11 journalists including three media workers in northeast India.
The vibrant Indian media fraternity observed an unusual Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 in 2017 to raise voices for ensuring safety, security and justice for working journalists across the country. Different press clubs, media bodies and civil society organisations also organized various demonstrations in support of their demands. The vulnerable media community of the 1-billion nation continues pursuing a national action plan to safeguard media persons in the line of military personnel, police and doctors on duty. Their arguments are loud and clear — if the nation wants journalists to do their risky job for society’s greater interest, their security along with justice must also be ensured.


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