In The Line of Fire

Protests galore The uproar over Vyapam-related deaths grew following the demise of journalist Akshay Singh

The reverberations of the Vyapam scam are being felt across the country. Far away in Bengaluru, the death of Akshay Singh, a journalist covering the Vyapam scam, shook the IT city which took to social media to express its anguish and pain. For many, it was unbelievable that a young journalist would lose his life within half an hour of interviewing someone linked to the scam. Sample one of the tweets doing the rounds.

“Subha [email protected] Journo: Akshay Singh’s death opens up a can of worms. Silencing the Messenger: Death by Journalism.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which had organised one of its biggest events in the south this week to expand its membership through the ‘Mahasampark Abhiyaan’ remained largely tight-lipped on the Vyapam scam and the suspicious death of the Aaj Tak reporter Akshay Singh.

Party president Amit Shah, who chaired the meeting also avoided any reference to Vyapam related deaths including Singh’s. Clearly, the BJP is yet to come to terms with the kind of criticism it is facing on the issue. Though Shah in his address to party workers of seven states, highlighted the importance of staying “united”, rumblings of Vasundhara Raje, Sushma Swaraj and Shivraj Singh Chouhan are indicative of the internal turmoil that the party is facing. Many party insiders also concede that this may be a chance for the Narendra Modi camp to put Advani loyalist Shivraj Singh Chouhan in place.

However, law minister Sadananda Gowda was more forthcoming in his demand for a CBI probe into Singh’s death. “I have come to know from media reports that there are so many mysterious deaths happening…. It is very sad. As far as cbi enquiry in this case is concerned, I think the state government has to take a call on this…I know there is an increasing demand for a cbi enquiry,” said Gowda.

But the biggest blow for Shivraj Singh Chouhan came from RSS ideologue with pracharak KN Govindacharya coming down heavily on his government. On the very day Union water resources minister and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Uma Bharti expressed fear for her life, Govindacharya criticised Chouhan. “I feel very sad at the kind of irresponsible response of the government towards this issue… Central government should take cognizance, and the Supreme Court should take suo motu cognizance of the case to come to a conclusion,” said Govindacharya.

The media fraternity in Bengaluru mourned the loss of Singh as one of its own. Journalists from various organisations assembled at Press Club of Bangalore to pay a tribute to the late Singh. Nehal Kidwai, a journalist with NDTV recalling initial years he had spent working with Singh in Jain TV said, “He was aggressive and bold, from the beginning itself. A trait that he carried throughout. I only hope that Singh’s family gets justice.” Sudipto Mondal, another journalist from Bengaluru raised a pertinent question, “As a journalist on the ground, we are on a neutral platform. Why drag the likes of Singh into the cover up plots? Truth must prevail and it’s the duty of the government to give a clear picture,” said Sudipto. Protests were also staged in various parts of Madhya Pradesh by the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) demanding CBI probe in the matter and the resignation of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

“A number of people allegedly involved in the scam have died in a suspicious manner and therefore, it should be probed by cbi and Chouhan should immediately resign,” state Youth Congress president Kunal Choudhry told the media during a protest staged in Bhopal. In the national capital, the iyc held a candlelight vigil to demand speedy redressal to the victims’ families and investigation of the scam.

Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too held protests in the state demanding a thorough probe in the matter. Raising doubts over the intention of the state government, Dilip Pandey, AAP leader speaking to a media house asked, “How is it possible that an sit under the Madhya Pradesh government, which itself is under questionable situation, will expose the scam and deaths associated with it?” Delhi cm and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal also demanded a quick investigation. “Vyapam scam and all deaths so far ought to be thoroughly investigated. Guilty must be punished,” he tweeted. The party has announced nationwide protests on 11 July.

All India Trinamool Congress President Mamata Banerjee also promised to bring the issue up for discussion in the Parliament. cpm leader Sitaram Yechury also came down on the state government for its inaction and informed media that the Left parties have asked for an independent enquiry on the matter under the supervision of the apex court.

In a major development, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider the plea of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and three whistle-blowers for an apex court-monitored cbi probe into the Vyapam scam on 9 July.

With inputs from Deepa Philip

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