Where Is Prabhat Singh?

September 20, 2016

This article has been reprinted from Outlook magazine.

Where Is Prabhat Singh?

An abduction threat from the cops. The Dantewada-based journo, a prominent voice from the region, has been missing since.

 

“I think the police, on government’s cue, are trying to silence my voice again. I fear that I would be kidnapped”, read Prabhat Singh’s last WhatsApp message sent on September 16 at 4:38 PM. The 32-year-old Dantewada-based journalist has been missing since then—his whereabouts unknown, phone switched off.

His friends believe that he has been detained illegally since he had been receiving threats of that nature.

Earlier this year, Singh, who then worked for a Hindi daily, was arrested in Dantewada after he allegedly made comments on a Whatsapp group criticising the police and demanding a law protecting reporters in the region, which has been embroiled in a decade-long Maoist insurgency. Charges under section 67 and 67-A of the Information Technology Act, which pertains to circulating obscene material, were brought against him.

The journalist’s colleague at the recently launchedbhumkalsamaachar.com, Tameshwar Sinha, told Outlook that such threats are not new to Singh. “He is actually living with a lot of risk. Arrest ka dar nahin zindagi ka hai (he isn’t scared of police arrests, it’s about life now),” he said.

 

Singh also attached an audio file in his Friday’s message in which police station in-charge can be clearly heard making serious threats to him. Singh wrote: “The police station in-charge called me. He wants me to come to Jagdalpur at once. Else they’ll pick me up from Dantewada.

“Police has refused to file my complaint in the entire Bastar area even though I tried approaching the Police headquarters.”

Singh has been a very prominent voice from the insurgency hit region in the recent times despite several trampling attempts by different outfits. “Prabhat is very vocal in his writings and he wrote a lot against this NGO AGNI these days. There were rumours that the police might hand him over to the mob after his arrest ahead of a Lalkar rally in Jagdalpur on Saturday,” said Sinha.

After his disappearance, Shehnaz Malik, general secretary of a group called Akhil Bhartiya Patrakar Suraksha Samiti, called Bastar IG SRP Kalluri for clarification. The top cop reportedly said: “Wo patrakar nahin, Naxali hai. Gujarat mein baithe baithe kaise aapko sapna aa gaya ki wo patrkakar hain? (He is not a journalist, he’s a Naxal. How could you dream, sitting in Gujarat, that he was a scribe?).”

 

Audio files:

 

“A press conference in Bastar is usually a quiet affair, journalists just record what is said or take the handout and regurgitate it on the paper,” Singh had told the Hindustan Times in December 2015. “No one dares ask a question.” Clearly, such comments from him seem almost prophetic now in a ‘no free speech land’.