Behind the bars with Naveen Soorinje4 min read
Even in the gloomy bustle of Mangalore jail, Naveen Soorinje transcends a strange sense of confidence and enthusiasm onto you. Three months in jail fighting high fever and dealing with other problems, his biggest concern still remains his inability to report the six incidents of moral policing that sprouted after his arrest.
The Kasturi News24 reporter has been grabbing headlines ever since he dared to uncover Karnataka’s ugly truth of moral policing and communal violence by covering the shocking Mangalore Homestay attack.
While the national and international media is pressing hard for his release, TMJ got a chance to visit the courageous journalist. A fifteen minute interview was conducted with a written permission given to the Jailor. Here are the excerpts:
Would your arrest change anything in your work in the future?
This incident wouldn’t change my style of working. I would continue to provide evidences against communal violence or moral policing.
Definitely, this should not affect me from doing what I’ve been doing. It is my job. More than my job, I believe it is my moral responsibility to bring the truth to the common man. Also, taking pragmatic considerations, if you have to progress as a reporter you have to dauntlessly cover such stories.
You have spent around three months in the jail. After fighting for a cause you really believed in, is serving confinement turning out to be the punishment itself?
It does not affect me much, punishing me would be a loss for the police itself. My recordings should have been used as evidence. I regret the fact that the police haven’t put the evidences to a better use. It is useless to arrest me. However, there is one thing I am glad about; 41 people were arrested that night after the incident. Most of their faces were recognised through our footage. So indirectly, I have helped and made a small contribution.
There is still not much support gathered against imposition of extreme Hindutva thoughts. What could be the influences tampering with the cause?
Moral Policing or the Hindutva as people name it is nothing new in Dakshin Kannada. There has always been a pro-Hindutva outlook in Mangalore. There is also a scarcity of journalists who cover such stories. Also, the media doesn’t seem to be interested in taking evidence or record against atrocious crimes committed as acts of moral policing. Further, even if we believe them to cover such incidents, the media doesn’t easily choose to hand it (evidence) over to the police authorities. The casualness with which they bring out such stories has brought me to this stage today.
The RSS and BJP are mostly involved in the acts of policing and stuffing morality in the mouths of individuals. These individuals without any doubt belong to an old school of thought.
You have always worked on hard hitting stories. In the process, you would have earned contempt from many groups and individuals. Is it biting back now?
There are a lot of people in support of me as well as against me. People against me are the ones whom I have gone against.
I did go onto cover stories against journalists also. There used to be drinking parties organised in the name of press meets. Media persons were felicitated and given gifts. Definitely, there were symptoms of corruption among most reporters and I covered it. Pointing them out has earned me enemies today.
But not always does it bite back. In the church attacks that happened, the Justice Somashekhar Commission praised me. So it feels good when your work is acknowledged by something as big as the judiciary.
What else do you have to say about others in the journalist community?
The only message would be that we are here to serve the society and should stick to the same. I did what my instinct required me to do. I am glad that I could serve as a source of evidence for a few faces who got arrested.
As journalists we have to be ready for such arrests and conflicts. It’s common now. Very few journalists have such a hold to report intense stories against such crimes and still not get arrested. I do not regret what I’ve done and would continue to do it in the future.
Not much was asked about the court or the homestay attack as the matter is sub judice and cannot be commented upon by Soorinje.
The conversation between the reporter and Soorinje took place in Kannada and Dhiren Monteiro and Soubhagya Pai acted as translators.
Mobile phones, cameras and other equipments weren’t allowed inside the jail and hence the conversation hasn’t been recorded.
Sub-edited by Priyanka Sharma