Slain Sirsa journalist’s son is confident that justice will be done in his father’s murder case.
Just after Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati exposed the alleged rape of two sadhvis in a Hindi daily, ‘Poora Sach’(The Complete Truth), his colleagues had warned him: “Sir, do not publish such dangerous news report, someone will shoot you one day.”
To which, he promptly replied, “A real reporter takes the bullet, not a shoe. The one who takes the shoe is not a reporter.”
Five days later — on 24 October, 2002 — Chhatrapati was shot at, allegedly by two supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda, just outside his house while his wife and three children were inside. Even as he lay on his deathbed, all he wished for was the truth to come out and that the dera chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, be exposed.
The resolution to pursue this case is something that Anshul, Chhatrapati’s son, got from him. It has been 15 years since he has been fighting to see his father’s murderers behind bars and he is determined that justice will be done.
Sitting in a room, where he has put up his father’s photograph and the accolades he had won for his fearless reporting, Anshul goes through the original newspaper sheets of ‘Poora Sach’ that he has stacked in a corner; neatly bound in a hard cover.
Running his fingers over his father’s byline, he says, “He was a law graduate and had a short stint in the legal profession before starting out as a journalist. As an advocate, he never got the job satisfaction he had been looking for. Then he quit his practice and started writing for ‘Rashtriya Sahara’. He told us that lawyers often resort to lies and manipulate facts and hence, he left that profession.”
Anshul says his father wrote for many newspapers but could not sustain in that job as “he did not get the freedom to report or write what he wanted to”.
“He had a good network, amazing understanding of issues and reported hard facts, which many papers could not publish due to their political affiliations,” Anshul says.
It was then that he made up his mind to start his own newspaper, ‘Poora Sach’ (complete truth).
From ‘Sach’ to ‘Poora Sach’
The idea for the name, ‘Poora Sach’, was inspired by a daily called, ‘Sach’, which is published by dera followers.
“The paper that started on 2 February, 2002, stood for complete truth without any cuts or manipulation — just hard facts. Something that my father always wanted. In the very first edition, he wrote an editorial on the front page taking an oath that truth will never be compromised, no matter what the circumstances and he stood by it,” Anshul says.
It was during this time that Chhatrapati started writing on the malpractices by the dera followers. His friends told him that he was inviting trouble, but that did not deter him. A few months later he received an anonymous letter alleging that Ram Rahim sexually assaulted sadhvis inside the dera and he started digging deep into the story.
“After collecting the necessary information, he prepared a report and went ahead to publish it. Everybody was shocked as no one could imagine a person staying in Sirsa going against a man as powerful as the baba,” Anshul says.
Chhatrapati kept reporting on the matter despite several threats and in October 2002 he was attacked. “He had just returned home after work when two people came outside our home and called him out. He went out and the men shot at him point blank. One of them ran towards the police post and got caught. When his pistol was recovered, it was found to be a licensed one in the name of a dera follower,” Anshul recalls.
Chhatrapati battled for life for over 11 days, first at a Sirsa hospital and then in Delhi. Even though he was unable to speak, he gave a statement to the police against the dera followers, alleging that he had been receiving threats from them. However, the Haryana police did not bother registering an FIR.
“Police deleted the relevant portions from his statement about the dera chief and his followers and no case was made out,” Anshul says.
Chhatrapati succumbed to his injuries in Delhi on 8 November, 2002. Following this, several signature campaigns were launched by his supporters, seeking a CBI inquiry into the matter. “People were very supportive. Many NGOs came to our rescue and supported us in this fight. Finally, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered an inquiry and investigation was taken up,” he says.
He adds, “Initially, my mother was scared but she stood by us. My father sacrificed his life for truth, I could not have let his sacrifice go waste. That is what kept me going for 15 years and I hope we achieve what we have been fighting for,” he says.
The long wait
Anshul was 21 when his father passed away. He quit his studies and took over the responsibility to publish ‘Poora Sach’, even though it ran into losses. “We did not shut it down till 2014. No advertiser supported us as they were scared. There was no revenue but we still kept it going. We kept writing against the establishment, we kept updating our readers about the case and I started writing editorials,” he says.
In these 15 years, Anshul received many threats, indirectly, to withdraw the case but he stood firm. “They offered money through our common contacts, sent people to attack our newspaper office, but we kept the fight going,” he says.
Now that the rape case verdict is out, Anshul now plans to study law.
“I will do LL.B from IGNOU. I wish to be a lawyer. I could not study all this while because I was leading a fight, but will hopefully resume studies now. I am a father of two, but I believe that there is no age to start studying again,” he says.
He has realised how as a lawyer, one can do justice to the system, to the people fighting.
“This is why I wish to become a lawyer and will always remember my father’a words, ‘Sach aur jhooth ke beech koi teesri cheez nahi hoti’ (there is only truth and lies, there’s nothing in between),” he says.
The next hearing in the Chhatrapati murder case is scheduled for 16 September.
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