Field Notes: A Reporter Goes Beyond Reporting


On 27 November 2023, I left Jamshedpur in a taxi at four in the morning and reached Latehar in the south of Jharkhand five hours later. It took another hour to reach Piri village, home to a 22-year-old Adivasi man who was shot dead by security forces while he was hunting in a nearby forest in June 2021. 

When I reached the government school in the village, Brahmadev Singh’s friends met me and helped me navigate the treacherous and rain-soaked path to his house to meet his young widow. She wasn’t there. 

When I finally spoke with Jeeramani, it was dark outside. She talked of her long and hard fight for justice, starting with getting the police to register a police case. More than two and half years later, no one has been held responsible for Brahmadev’s death. 

The day I met her, Jeeramani said she was yet to receive any compensation from the state presently under the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led coalition government and chief minister Champai Soren. 

When I learnt that the Jharkhand High Court on 14 August 2023 had directed the home department to compensate Jeeramani within four weeks, but she had not received any money three and half months later, I wanted to do something about it. 

After I left her with the reassurance of speaking with officials about the compensation, I went to meet the superintendent of police (SP) of Latehar. 

I waited for two hours. When the SP came at 10 p.m., he refused to discuss Singh’s case. 

The next day, 28 November 2023, when I called the home secretary, he told me he did not know about the case but would find out. After that, I could not get him for two days. 

I tried the principal secretary next. He asked for some time to respond, but he, too, became unavailable. 

It wasn't easy to get answers to my questions from officials in Jharkhand, who kept passing the buck and telling me to speak with someone else. 

Cagey and callous officers who conceal and deceive even when it comes to basic information concerning the well-being of people they are supposed to serve make it very hard for reporters to form a complete picture and do their jobs well.

On 6 December 2023, I heard from a local activist, Anil Singh, that Jeeramani received Rs 500,000 as compensation via bank transfer. I immediately called her. She sounded relieved but ended the conversation by saying that the money did not mean justice for her husband. 

I called the district collector of Latehar, who told me the payment had indeed been made and transferred. 

I believe the officials were pressured by my calls and emails and silently paid the compensation.

I felt there was a lot of indifference; officials didn’t care whether the young woman, widowed because of a trigger-happy security force, received compensation. But there were also bureaucratic hurdles and negligence.

Sometimes, matters slip through the cracks when officers are transferred, and families from poor backgrounds are also unable to respond and complete formalities.

If I encounter a situation like this while reporting, I would like to make those calls that can make a difference instead of just writing about it. 

You can read Mohammad Sartaj’s full story here

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