New Delhi: Acting on a request from their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh, the Odisha Police have put in place measures to ensure that a two-day visit to the state by Sudarshan TV editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke is “hassle-free”.
Chavhanke, who landed in Bhubaneswar Tuesday, is scheduled to meet murder convict Dara Singh in Keonjhar district jail Wednesday in furtherance of his sustained campaign for Singh’s release. Singh is serving life sentences in three separate cases, including the murders of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999.
On Tuesday, Chavhanke visited the Jagannath temple in Puri and attended a programme organised in Cuttack by NGO Veer Savarkar Foundation.
In a circular dated 19 September, the superintendent of police (SP) of Special Branch directed zonal officers to “remain alert”, collect “ground-level intelligence” and take “necessary security, preventive and precautionary measures” to ensure Chavhanke’s visit to Keonjhar for his “courtesy meeting with Dara Singh Bhai (brother)” is “hassle free [sic]”.
A source in the Odisha Police, who did not wish to be named, said a decision was made to provide security to Chavhanke on the basis of “threat perception”, following a request from the Uttar Pradesh Police.
“Since he is coming from Noida, we were requested to provide him with security by the UP Police on the basis of threat perception. There will be some policemen around him. He is not a central or state protectee so those rules do not apply to him. But there will be some security on the basis of threat perception,” the officer told The Print. He, however, did not divulge any details on the exact number of personnel deployed for Chavhanke’s security.
ThePrint reached Suresh Chavhanke via telephone but had not receive a response by the time this report was published. The report will be updated if and when a response is received.
Sudarshan TV’s resident editor, Mukesh Kumar, told ThePrint that Chavhanke had been granted security cover by the UP Police on the basis of multiple threats he has received from “al-Qaeda, ISI, etc”.
‘First to demand Dara Singh’s release’
A trial court had sentenced Dara Singh to death in 2003 for the murders of Graham Staines and his two sons (aged 7 and 10) who were burnt to death by a mob in Manoharpur village in Keonjhar, Odisha in January 1999.
The Orissa HC commuted Singh’s sentence to life imprisonment in 2005.
Singh was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007 in another case related to the 1999 murder of a Muslim trader. In January this year, the Orissa High Court rejected a plea by Singh asking the court to treat the 21 years he had already spent in jail for the trader’s murder as life imprisonment.
In 2017, Chavhanke took to Twitter to point out that Singh had spent 18 years in jail without any parole while former All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader V.K. Sasikala — arrested in February that year in a disproportionate assets case — had been granted parole for five days to meet her husband, who was recovering after surgery.
Citing an article published in Sudarshan News in June 2020, Chavhanke compared Singh’s case to that of Jamia Coordination Committee media coordinator Safoora Zargar, who was granted bail on humanitarian grounds in connection with a 2020 Delhi riots case.
A similar article by Rahul Pandey published on the website in August 2020 read: “He [Singh] is in jail for 21 years and his behaviour in jail was perfect and just. To this day, no one has any information about how much he was tortured.”
“In the meantime, many such people have been released from jail in the name of mercy, who were caught cutting their wives into pieces and burning them in the tandoor, for example, Congress leader Sushil Sharma.”
The article went on to add that Chavhanke “is the first one to raise his voice to get Dara Singh released”.
“Chavhanke, who successfully campaigned for Sadhvi Pragya, Colonel Purohit, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Swami Amritanand [2008 Malegaon blast accused], Swami Aseemanand, Dhananjay Desai [Hindu Rashtra Sena chief] etc. is now campaigning for the freedom of Dara Singh,” it added.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)