Ashish Tomar & Shakeel Ahmad
HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on September 18, 2019 regarding fabricated case registered against journalists Mr. Ashish Tomar and Mr. Shakeel Ahmad in Uttar Pradesh for reporting discrimination of dalit families. Mr. Ashish Tomar has been covering social political news for Hindi daily ‘Dainik Jagran’ since 2009 in Uttar Pradesh and Mr. Shakeel has over 25 years of experience as a working journalist, working in and around Bijnor district in Uttar Pradesh.
On September 5, 2019 a criminal case was filed against Mr. Ashish Tomar and Mr. Shakeel Ahmad in the Mandwar police station of district Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh for manipulating and spreading fake news about “Dalits threatening to leave” at Titarwala Basi village after influential Harijan Dalit family prevented them from drawing water from a hand pump. This piece of news has been seen as trying to instigate the Dalits to threaten that they would leave the village, as well as for the Dalits to put up a sign saying their houses were on sale. The journalists maintain they have evidence on the story and the case was lodged as the police was displeased over their reporting on the case of caste discrimination by a Valmiki dalit family in a dalit-majority village. Lokesh Devi of the Valmiki family was reported as pressurised to name the two journalists as part of a statement to falsely implicate them.
The two journalists were booked under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity), 268 (nuisance) and 503 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act reportedly on a complaint by Senior Sub Inspector Pramod Kumar of the Mandwar police station. It is pertinent to note that in the recent past, other journalists in the state such as Mr. Pawan Kumar, who exposed the Uttar Pradesh government’s corruption and mismanagement at a mid-day meal programme, have been booked under false charges.