Channel that exposed the extra judicial killings in Punjab shut

Published: August 5, 2013
Surjit Singh

Surjit Singh. Screenshot/YouTube

GURPREET SINGH
VANCOUVER DESI

In what can be described as an assault on free expression, the highly credible Day and Night TV channel has been forced to shut its operation in Punjab, India.

The channel had recently exposed the extra judicial killings of over 80 people by the Punjab police when the Sikh separatist movement was at its peak from early 1980s to 1990s. The Sub Inspector Surjit Singh had admitted that he was involved in the staged managed shootouts of the suspects.

Often the suspected militants were killed in fake encounters by the police back then for bravery awards or out of turn promotions in the name of “national interest.”

The Canadian opposition parties, the NDP and Liberals had issued statements seeking protection to Surjit Singh following a campaign by the Canada based World Sikh Organization. Whereas, there was a near complete  silence in the mainstream media over the issue, Day and Night gave such highly sensitive story a space that attracted the international attention.

Surjit Singh is now fearing for his life.

Although there is no direct evidence to suggest that the Day and Night has been forced to close its business because of highlighting Surjit Singh’s story, the channel has been facing hostility from the government since day one.

The channel never got government advertisements — a major income source for majority media outlets in India,  as the ruling Akali Dal wanted to promote PTC, a channel which has ideological and financial ties with the party.

Not surprisingly, the channel could not even be aired properly on the cable television network, which is again controlled by the associates of the Akali Dal.

The Day and Night Editor, Kanwar Sandhu, under whose command I started my career with Indian Express, announced that the channel was bleeding financially and despite the fact that they had apprised the political leadership of the region about the transmission problems they faced nothing was being done to fix it.

The channel first came into conflict with the government after it began covering the rallies of a fledgling Peoples Party of Punjab that came into being following rebellion in the Akali Dal.

The channel started complaining about the weak transmission and downed signals soon after.

Under these circumstances one can clearly see political undertones behind this controversy.

What is more shameful that the Akali Dal that fought against Emergency and press censorship that was once imposed by the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1970s is indulging in such tactics, albeit in a more diplomatic and not similarl brutal manner.

The Akali Dal government had previously banned movies,  like Sada Haq and Oh My God. While Sada Haq depicted police repression during Sikh militancy, Oh My God is a comedy about blind faith.

Whatever may be the case, these instances reflect very poorly on a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy.

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