Bhubaneswar: After remaining silent on the alleged police excesses on a reporter of leading Odia TV channel OTV, former MP Baijayant Jay Panda has equated the law and order situation in Odisha with that in Pakistan.
Drawing parallels with assault on a journalist of Republic TV in Maharashtra, the BJP national vice-president termed the situation in the two states as “real fascism”.
In a tweet, the former Kendrapada MP said, “Shameful how Maharashtra & Odisha police simply “pick up” & assault journalists & do custodial interrogation, without following the basic process of law, like in Pakistan. This is real fascism. Please speak up for Ramesh Rath of @OTV & Pradip103 of @republic (Sic).”
Shameful how Maharashtra & Odisha police simply “pick up” & assault journalists & do custodial interrogation, without following the basic process of law, like in Pakistan. This is real fascism. Please speak up for Ramesh Rath of @otvnews & @pradip103 of @republic
— Baijayant Jay Panda (@PandaJay) October 17, 2020
The BJP leader’s tweet drew both support as well as criticism from social media users. Here are a few samples:
Go ask the Odisha Police and Govt regarding the same, it seems they want to became it Pakistan like system in Odisha with their unlawful activities, bloody we are not Police State. Emotions hurted only someone compares it like Pakistan but not when the Govt acted like lawless.
— Ranjan Swain (@RanjanSwainR) October 18, 2020
By the same logic who has given superpowers to media houses like OTV and Republic. They think they are above law …..If a reporter is questioned for his unlawful activities, his master uses his power to abuse state govt ?
— Nitiman (@Nitiman) October 17, 2020
Dear sir I respect you but don’t dare to compare odisha with Pakistan. It’s a land of our holy culture and nobody has the right to spoil it. Don’t behave like that stupid Arnav goswami. He is just a trp seeker.
— Thepralaya (@pralaya_swain) October 17, 2020
Good that u r talking abt journalists but why selective approach. If time permits, u may please count how many journalists in UP going through police atrocities even just for a tweet !! But I know that u don’t have gudse to say anything against UP govt.
— LENIN PANDA (@LeninINDIA) October 18, 2020
This is how some BJP leaders reacted to his statement.
Quite unfortunate that Shri. Jay Panda @PandaJay feels Odisha has become Pakistan, the same state that sent him to both houses of the Parliament. The same people of Kendrapara who ensured it. The same Tulasi Khetra. This is an insult to every Odia and to the Odia culture as well. https://t.co/8hoIZFk2Ed
— Dr. Sasmit Patra I ଡ଼ଃ ସସ୍ମିତ ପାତ୍ର (@sasmitpatra) October 18, 2020
Nothing more shameful than comparing your own state with Pakistan. Colossal disrespect for the Odia culture and the people of Odisha. Hope better sense prevails and this of insult for the people of Kendrapara, the entire state stops here! https://t.co/NpgsYvz6qS
— Pranab Prakash Das (@pranabpdas) October 18, 2020
Extremely unfortunate that you equate people who voted for you as Pakistanis. Bewildering thought that 4.5 crore Odias seem like Pakistanis to you. A grave insult to Odias everywhere! https://t.co/4sXFWKjoqL
— Chandra Sarathi (@chandra_sarathi) October 18, 2020
The police had recently picked up the OTV reporter from near his house in connection with an obscene video purportedly involving Keonjhar MP Chandrani Murmu that surfaced during the 2019 general elections. OTV alleged that the police acted without any court order and did not allow Rath to contact anybody during detention.
It also claimed that it was being targeted for running stories exposing mismanagement of COVID funds. Rath was picked up by police a day after the channel telecast a story, based on RTI findings, casting doubts on CM Naveen Patnaik’s aerial survey of flood-hit areas on August 31.
While police has clarified that Rath was questioned in connection with the obscene video, the issue has kicked up a row. The Keonjhar MP has blamed OTV MD Jagi Mangat Panda, who is facing land grab, atrocity and POCSO violation cases, and Baijayant of protecting their reporter allegedly involved in morphing her image in the obscene video. OTV is owned by the Panda family.
Similarly, Maharashtra police detained Republic TV reporter Pradeep Bhandari and questioned him for 9 hours on Saturday. The national channel, led by Arnab Goswami, which has turned controversial because of its coverage of certain issues and alleged TRP manipulation scandal, claimed its journalist was subjected to inhuman treatment during questioning.
It had also run a story on the OTV reporter case highlighting the alleged attempt of the two state governments to curb Press freedom. Arnab also anchored a debate on the issue.
On Saturday, Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi also criticised the police action in case of the OTV reporter.
Earlier, Editors’ Guild of India condemned the incident and said it “threatened as well as undermined the independent functioning of the media organisations” and “should be withdrawn forthwith”.