It’s a thought that hasn’t stopped haunting Ram Dulare Kashyap since he heard that his son, journalist Raman Kashyap, had died in the violence that erupted in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri district Sunday.
After he learnt that a car had run some people over and shots had allegedly been fired at the site of a farmers’ protest in Tikoniya that Raman was covering, he spent the evening making frantic calls to establish his son’s whereabouts.
Later, Ram Dulare told ThePrint, some people said Raman was among the people hit by the car, and his body had been taken to a mortuary by police.
And that was when the chilling thought first occurred to him. The only route from the protest site to the Civil Hospital mortuary runs by their house at Nighasen. “Imagine his body went past our own house as we were busy looking for him,” he said.
Raman, who worked with the Madhya Pradesh-based Sadhana Plus TV news channel, was one of Kashyap’s three sons.
A tehsil reporter, he only earned money from a report when it was aired. The protest he went to cover turned out to be one of the biggest incidents of the year so far, but even so, it would have earned him Rs 500 — the pay he is believed to have got for each report that ended up on TV.
According to his father, Raman chose journalism because he wanted to make a difference in the world.
“He was teaching at a private school, and along with that, he was working as a reporter. He wanted to do some social work and felt reporting was a way of doing something for society,” Ram Dulare added.
Raman, 33, leaves behind wife Aradhana and two children, daughter Vaishnavi (11) and son Abhinav (2.5).
Raman was one of eight people killed in Sunday’s violence, which has stoked horror around the country. Purported videos from the site of the incident show an SUV mowing down a crowd of standing protesters, besides bloody visuals of the injured.
At the centre of the anger surrounding the violence is Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, the target of Sunday’s farmer protest. The car allegedly belonged to Mishra, and there are also unproven claims that it was driven by his son, Ashish Mishra.
The minister has denied these allegations, and claimed that three BJP workers and a driver in his entourage were killed by miscreants among the protesters.
The Uttar Pradesh government has instituted a judicial inquiry into the incident, and announced compensation for the dead and the injured. Ashish Mishra, meanwhile, has been booked for alleged murder.
Raman’s family says they don’t want his death to be politicised, and wish to shun blame-games too. But they say they have cause to fault the police’s conduct in handling his case.
‘If he had been rushed to hospital…’
Relatives were gathered at the bereaved Kashyap household in Nighasen, approximately 25 km from the site of the protest, when ThePrint arrived to meet the family Tuesday morning.
Inside, in a room, Raman’s wife Aradhana sat on the bed, crying, as female relatives sat in chairs lined up against the foot of the bed. Shortly, Aradhana’s children came and joined her. Aradhana pulled the toddler son into her lap, while the daughter cradled his legs.
The men of the household sat in another portion of the house. While Pawan Kashyap, one of Raman’s younger brothers, sat on a charpoy, Ram Dulare was seated on a wooden platform beside it.
Speaking to ThePrint, Ram Dulare said he first got alarmed about Raman when he didn’t return at the promised time Sunday. The worried father then started making some calls. Among those he called were other local reporters who were covering the protest.
When the family realised all the others were back, panic set in.
“We went to the Nighasen Kotwali at 9 pm to get some information regarding my missing son, but got nothing. Around 3 am, we got a call from the mortuary that they had found a body and were not able to identify it,” said Ram Dulare. “They asked us to come over to the hospital. We rushed and went to the mortuary and saw his body lying there in a pool of blood.”
Pawan said the family had learnt from some “sources” that Raman may have been alive when picked up from the spot “around 6 pm”, but wasn’t offered immediate medical attention.
“The administration made no effort to rush him to the nearby hospital or to contact the family immediately,” he alleged, refusing to identify the “sources”.
“The place where the incident took place has three hospitals nearby, with one 100-200 metres away. If he had been rushed to a hospital, he may have survived,” Pawan added.
“Action needs to be taken against the kotwali that took him straight to the mortuary (45 km away), that too in a police car and not an ambulance. My brother was alive till then,” he claimed.
Pawan claimed Raman’s clothes were torn, and there were injury marks on his body, which “could have been a result of being dragged on the road”. “My brother was hit by a vehicle,” he said.
The family has demanded action against the owner of the vehicle, and the Tikoniya Kotwali for “declaring him dead without taking him to the hospital”.
The police, however, deny the allegations. “We took four injured people to the hospital (including Kashyap). He died after reaching the hospital and following that we shifted him to the mortuary,” said Balendu Gautam, the Tikoniya station house officer (SHO).
Sources in the police said they had taken Kashyap and the other three to hospital after requesting farmers to let go of them. “The farmers had the bodies in their custody and we requested that we might be able to save them. So the claim of not taking him to hospital makes no sense,” added a police source.
‘Died doing his job’
Brij Mohan Singh, the channel head of Sadhana Plus, told ThePrint that Raman had been working with them for a year.
“We got to know about the incident in the morning. Soon after that, we raised the issue. Earlier, no one was even mentioning that a journalist had also been killed in the clash,” he said.
Singh said Raman was a tehsil reporter who was paid for the reports aired on the channel. “They were paid Rs 500 for a story and Rs 300 for a phono (phone-in),” he added.
Generally, two or three reports from tehsils are aired on the channel in a month, he said.
“He was working with us for the past one year and used to report on crime and politics especially,” Singh said, adding that the channel was planning to promote him as the district reporter during Navratri.
Singh said he was shocked that there had been “simply no outcry over a reporter losing his life”.
“A life has been lost but it seems to affect no one. As a journalist, he had gone to report and, imagine, his body came back. Due to the rhetoric about the godi media (media seen to be in the government’s lap), the protesters don’t trust us, nor do the politicians. In between the two, it is the reporter who is facing the brunt,” he added.
On 4 October, the Lucknow Journalists’ Association took up the matter of Raman Kashyap’s death and wrote to the additional chief secretary, requesting Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to offer Rs 1 crore as financial help and a government job to one of his family members. Then, Tuesday, the Editors Guild of India released a statement expressing its shock and demanding a court-led SIT probe.
Brother Pawan said: “We just want to request the government that my brother was not from any political party or a farmer, and hence his compensation should be separate from others. It’s not a matter of money. We don’t want anything more, but we want recognition that he was a journalist and died doing his duty.”
He also suggested to the government that the safety of journalists be considered a priority.
“My brother has already gone but I hope such things won’t happen with other journalists. There needs to be a law for the safety and security of journalists,” he said. “People like him put their lives at risk to bring reality to the common people and it is important to ensure their safety.”
The family also said Raman’s death should not be politicised. “He was a journalist and died reporting. We don’t want to indulge in blame-game,” said Ram Dulare. “We have lost our son and no one can get him back.” The Print