IN what can be construed as an assault on the freedom of the press, MiD DAY reporter Tarakant Dwivedi, better known as Akela, has been put behind bars by the CST Government Railway Police (GRP) for exposing the poor condition in which hi-tech weapons procured after the 26/11 attack were being kept by the railway security forces.
The article published in Mumbai Mirror ('Leaks in CST armoury put new anti-terror arms under threat', June 28, 2010), where Akela used to work before joining MiD DAY, stated that all the new arms and ammunition were stored in a dank, decrepit room, where water was dripping from the roof and damaging them.
Akela, a veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience under his belt, had reported on the issue in public interest and the article had shaken the railway security forces out of their slumber and had even resulted in the transfers of a few senior officials.
Clearly, however, this article, and others before it, rubbed some officials in high places the wrong way, for one Pradeep Sontalia tried to file a complaint against Akela, a policeman and one more person with the CST GRP for trespassing into the Arms Koth (armoury) of the Cash Guard Section in connection with the article in September that year.
When they refused to take his complaint, Sontalia went to the Railway Court, which directed the GRP to inquire into the case and an FIR was finally registered against the three people under Section 447 (trespassing) of the IPC.
Later Sontalia went to the GRP again, asking for the trio to be booked under the draconian Official Secrets Act as they had got into a government armoury.
But, since he was told that only government officials could file a case under this act, he went to the Railway Police Force (RPF) and got one of its officers to file a case on his behalf. Later, the court asked the police to investigate the case under the Official Secrets Act although it was not mentioned in the first FIR.
On Tuesday evening, GRP officials came to the MiD DAY office in Parel to inquire about Akela. They took him to the GRP police station saying they wanted to take his statement, but, later that night, arrested him claiming he was accused of trespassing and of violating the provisions of the Official Secrets Act.
Akela was supposed to be produced in the Railway Court early last morning but constables kept telling MiD DAY that the papers they needed to submit before the honourable judge were not ready. When we went to the investigating officer, however, he said that he had already sent the papers. We even spotted a constable standing with the papers near the court but not producing them before the judge, leading us to conclude that the process was deliberately being delayed.
ACP in lock-up?
Assistant Commissioner of Police Anil Mahabole, who has no jurisdiction under the railways as he is associated with the city police, allegedly walked into the lock-up before the hearing had started.
He met Akela and said, "I wanted to see you here." He made some more comments and then instructed a constable to keep a tab on the people visiting Akela and to note down their details.
Akela has been remanded in police custody till May 21.