Niranjan Takle: Journalist on the Fascist Trail
Niranjan Takle in conversation with Dionne Bunsha and Peter Klein
September 16, 2018
Room 120, Surrey Centre Library
10350 University Drive, Surrey
Since the coming to power of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 there has been a systematic appropriation of institutions, including education, bureaucracy, police, judiciary, and media to serve the interests of the party and its ideology of Hindutva nationalism. The death of JudgeB.J. Loya is of historic significance in this process.
In 2005 a Muslim man, Shohrabuddin Sheikh was murdered in custody by the Gujarat police and his wife, Kauser Bi, who had witnessed his arrest, was raped and murdered. Senior officers of the Gujarat police were involved in this custodial murder, a common practice code named “encounter” in India. The home minister of Gujarat at the time, Amit Shah, who is currently head of the ruling BJP was the director of the operation.
The Supreme Court of India ordered an inquiry into these murders, first by the Gujarat police and then by the Central Bureau of Investigations and appointed a Special court of t he CBI to try Amit Shah and 11 police officers. The CBI court was to be presided by one judge till the completion of the process.
Presiding judge J. T. Utpat, who was exasperated by the non-appearance of the chief accused, Amit Shah, ordered him to present himself on June 26, 2014 but instead was transferred on June 25. Judge B. H. Loya who replaced him also became similarly exasperated and ordered Shah to appear in court on Dec 15. However, he was declared dead from natural causes on Dec 1 while attending a wedding in Nagpur. The judge who replaced him heard the case in two days and discharged Amit Shah on December 30. All eleven police officers involved were also discharged.
Investigative journalist Niranjan Takle was approached by the niece of Judge Loya to report on the extremely suspicious death of her uncle and published the results of his investigation in The Caravan on November 20, 2017. He resigned from the Bombay paper he had worked for since 2011, The Week, after it refused to publish the story. Takle’s story has led to a delegation of politicians to the President of India and a (fruitless) hearing in the Supreme Court but been conspicuously ignored in the mainstream media.
Judge Loya’s death is a milestone on the fascist path in India, enveloped as it is in the silence of his fellow judges and the craven evasion of the mainstream media. With journalists and journalism under attack everywhere in the world today it is more than ever necessary to hear the voices of those who have the courage and tenacity to uncover what the powerful want covered up.
Niranjan Takle trained as an engineer. He turned to journalism with a strong sense of media being used for political manipulation and propaganda and a desire to counter it. He joined CNN-IBN in 2005 and began by breaking a story of the smuggling of placenta chords from government hospitals. Moving from Nasik to Bombay he worked with The Week from 2011 to 2017, when he resigned on being denied publication for his story, “The Mysterious Death of Judge Loya.” His story, “A Lamb, Lionized” on V. D. Savarkar, the icon of the Hindu nationalist RSS and BJP, exposing him as a collaborator with the British, was published in The Wire in January 2016.
Peter W. Klein is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and filmmaker. He has reported from around the globe for CBS News 60 Minutes, as well as other network programs. He writes for US publications and oversees independent productions out of his studio in Vancouver. He is also the director of the University of British Columbia School of Journalism, and runs the school’s International Reporting Program. In 2009-2010 he was the host of the national Canadian public affairs program The Standard
Dionne Bunsha is an award-winning author and journalist. She is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book, Scarred: Experiments with Violence in Gujarat (Penguin India, 2006) about the aftermath of the communal violence in Gujarat. As a Senior Assistant Editor for Frontline magazine (www.frontline.in) in Mumbai, India, she travelled extensively to report on human rights, social justice and environmental issues. Dionne writes for The Guardian, The Hindu newspaper, the New Internationalist, Guernica, Toronto Star and The Tyee. Dionne was a Knight International Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 2008-09. Currently, Dionne coordinates a project mapping indigenous knowledge for Lower Fraser First Nations and teaches communications at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.