Last weekend, Chandrika Rai, a freelance journalist writing for the Hindi daily Navbharat and the English daily The Hitavada, in Umaria, Madhya Pradesh, was found murdered at home along with the rest of his family - his wife, Durga and their two children, Jalal and Nisha. Rai wrote regularly about the illegal mining racket in the area, and recently wrote a series of articles investigating the involvement of a local BJP leader in illegal mining. As reported in the mainstream media, the police in MP are currently investigating a possible link between the Rai murders and the recent kidnapping of the son of a local government official, downplaying the possibility of mafia involvement. As indicated by the fact-finding team constituted by the Press Council of India, the police have "almost discarded" the theory of the involvement of the illegal mining mafia at this stage, choosing instead to focus on the latter link. Whatever be the veracity of the police investigation, the fact remains that the lives of journalists are constantly threatened in India. The lack of reliable evidence often leads to obfuscation in cases, and the perpetrators go scot-free. Many journalists, as well as activists, find themselves confronting hostile officials and criminals, sometimes coterminous entities, on a daily basis. In the case of the recent burning of Dalit homes in Lathore, a local journalist's report on the illegal businesses of the local mafia was cited as one of the reasons for the "revenge attacks" perpetrated by the Meher-Agarwals. The levels of intolerance and lawlessness in the rural hinterland are exceedingly high, and such attacks on journalists, when they do occur, often go undetected and unpunished.
Truth and justice suffer greatly in an intolerant and corrupt society that feeds on lawlessness and muscle power. The culture of corruption has roots so deep, human lives, let alone constitutional principles, lose all value. Freedom is an illusion sustained by the elite, when a large majority of people live under conditions of threat and duress.