By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, August 9: How can there be democracy without a free press? Jourlist Kamala Saikia had to cost his life at the bullet of the ULFA on August 9, 1991 only for his unstinted respect for a free press. Since August 9, 1991 as many as 24 jourlists lost their lives at the hand of militants and miscreants in Assam, but none of the culprits has been punished as yet. Does not this imply that the souls of the 24 jourlists have been denied justice?
Along with various other organizations in the State, the Assam Press Correspondents’ Union (APCU) observed the 24th death anniversary of jourlist Kamala Saikia at Guwahati Press Club with the participation of jourlists from various parts in the State. The function was presided over by APCU president Manoj Singh.
The APCU expressed its dissatisfaction on the fact that none of the culprits responsible for the killing of 24 jourlists in Assam since 1991 have been punished, nor any of their kin has been compensated properly. Led by the APCU, the jourlists today registered their token protest in silence against the killing of their brethren and the failure on the part of the authorities concerned to punish the killers. The jourlists were seen with their lips tied with black bandas in front of Guwahati Press Club on Sunday as they believe that ‘silence speaks louder than words’.
The APCU paid tribute to Kamala Saikia and 23 other jourlists, and the homage-paying programme was led by jourlist and writer Akashi Tara Dutta, daughter of jourlist Kamala Saikia. She said: “It was on this day in 1991 my father fell to the bullet of the ULFA. His only fault was -- he didn’t obey the diktat of the ULFA and dared to criticize the outfit for its negative sides. Unfortutely 24 years has elapsed after the killing, but the culprits still go scot-free. Since August 9, 1991 the number of jourlists killed by militants and miscreants in the State has risen to 24, and the culprits of none of them have been punished as yet. The jourlists need to raise their protest with their pens, not with guns. A book comprising the biographies of the 24 jourlists killed in the State should be published, and if the arrangement for it is made, I’m ready to take the responsibility of its publication.”
Pankaj Duarah, a senior jourlist hailing from Sivasagar, said: “Kamala Saikia was fearless in his expression, and that cost him his life.”
APCU president Manoj Singh said: “The Assam Government has instituted an award in memory of jourlist Kamala Saikia. This is indeed appreciable. Dispur should start the conferment of the award immediately.”
A large number of jourlists from different parts of the state were present at the function.