Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 11
A common perception about journalists publishing local newspapers in small towns is not too good in this part of the country, as it is believed many of them are in the profession to further their business and vested interests.
But Ram Chander Chhatrapati, editor of “Poora Sach” published from Sirsa, was not of that kind. For him, journalism was a mission to take on the high and the mighty who misused their position to the detriment of the common people.
He started exposing Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh when he found out incriminating evidence of activities inside the sect’s headquarters and publishing stories fearlessly till shooters sent by the sect chief killed him on the evening of October 24, 2002.
Chhatrapati, born on March 19, 1950, was a law graduate. He started as a stringer for a national Hindi daily before he started his own eveninger “Poora Sach” from Sirsa in February 2000.
A logo written on the masthead of “Poora Sach” read as “Sach aur jhooth ke beech koi teesri cheez nahi hoti, aur main sach ke saath hun (It is either truth or falsehood; nothing in between, and I stand by the truth).”
Chhatrapati’s heart bled whenever he came across instances of exploitation of the common people at the hands of politicians or sect leaders such as Gurmeet Ram Rahim. He never hesitated to take up the cudgels against them.
He published an anonymous letter written by a sadhvi of the dera that talked about her sexual exploitation by Gurmeet Ram Rahim. This letter eventually led to his murder.
“Making money is not important. Even a prostitute earns enough money. What is important is to stand by the truth whatever be the circumstances,” Chhatrapati used to tell his fellow journalists.
The man’s reputation as a fair and fearless scribe can be gauged from the fact that noted journalists of the country such as Kuldeep Nayyar, Ravish Kumar and Urmilesh felt honoured to receive Ram Chander Chhatrapati Journalism Award instituted by his friends and family after his death.
A sea of people from the media fraternity had participated in a Patratkaar Panchayat in Sirsa held a few days after he was shot at and on Chhatrapati’s cremation on November 22, 2002.
They all pledged support to the family till Chhatrapati got justice. But the support started getting to waver gradually because of Ram Rahim’s influence and largesse.
While noted journalists of the country felt honoured to receive the award named after him, very few from his town Sirsa even attended the events.
His son Anshul Chhatrapati, who took over as editor of “Poora Sach” after his father’s murder, continued a lone battle — both on the legal and the journalistic front. And finally, the day of justice came today.