NDTV (India), Nov. 22, 2002
Ishwar Singh Dost
Ramchandra Chatrapati, the 52-year-old editor-owner of Poora Sach a well-known daily in Haryana, succumbed to his injuries in a Delhi hospital after a 28-day long battle for life.
An investigative journalist, Chatrapati, had been shot at outside his home in Sirsa, Haryana on October 24 by members of a secretive cult that his newspaper had been running a series of reports on.
His death may trigger a battle between local journalists and the powerful religious cult Dera Sacha Sauda.
“Ever since my father started writing against them, they had been threatening him,” said Chatrapati’s daughter Shreysi.
The police say the weapons recovered from the arrested men had been provided by Kishan Lal, a colleague at the cult’s ashram.
“The attackers were from the cult, but it’s still not clear who was involved to what extent. All this will come to light after proper investigation,” said D Suresh, Deputy Commissioner, Sirsa
The cult however seems unapologetic and even issued a veiled threat.
“The name of a senior member of our cult has now appeared. But if unfounded allegations are hurled at the cult, there are bound to be repercussions. We will do whatever we can to deal with it,” Dr Aditya Arora, Spokesperson, Dera Sacha Sauda.
Spread over 700 acres with a swimming pool, stadium and supermarket, the 54-year old cult commands a following of around 20 lakh believers. But the controversy has dogged the cult.
In September this year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered a CBI inquiry into its functioning after a woman from the cult complained of sexual exploitation.
Chatrapati isn’t the first journalist to be targeted by the cult. Over the last five years, a number of local journalists have been intimidated and assaulted for their reports against the cult.
In fact the local administration has been forced to provide gunmen to 11 journalists after they received death threats. Traders in the city have joined local journalists in demanding that the state government launch a thorough inquiry into the organization.
They argue that since the ashram has links with powerful political leaders, only a CBI led inquiry will ensure the safety not only of local journalists but the entire community.