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15 June, 2010

A journalist and a story in search of a newspaper

The following is a message from Priyanka Borpujari (, a Mumbai-based freelance journalist, which Ahalya Naidu ( has circulated to members of the Google group Human Rights Movement(


My name is Priyanka Borpujari and I am a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. Correction: I am a struggling freelance journalist - struggling with authorities to let me into the war zones on Central India, struggling with persuading them that I am a journalist and writer even if I don't carry a press card, struggling with having to return to Mumbai to try and get what I saw and heard and felt and smelled published somewhere, struggling to earn a living with what I love doing.

So, I am now headed to Orissa, specifically to Kalinganagar in Jajpur district. Kalinganagar should have been in the limelight, but since it is not, I have decided to go there to see the power that forbids the place from coming into the limelight. A local journalist was telling me, "That place is a jail. Nobody can go there or come out of it. Those who manage to get out are picked by cops for questioning." Reason? Tata's steel plant which is proposed to be set up there. In 2006, 14 people were killed. This year, as villagers protest to not let go of their meagre lands and livelihood into the hands of the 'philanthropic' company, five people have died for lack of timely medical aid. Goons are being sent to threaten the people; cops look on. Have you read any of this in any of the newspapers or seen on TV channels lately? I know you haven't, and hence I am going to bring out the real stories.

But this is no scary landscape for me. I was in Dantewada before and after the incident when 76 CRPF jawans were killed in am ambush with the Maoists. God was kind and our roads were clear through the Dandakaranya forest, although I can vividly remember the images of the blown up, a bullet-proof vehicle just few feet away from me. Of course, I am sure I was stepping on a landmine and I was lucky that it was not detonated.

The purpose of this mail is not to boast of my heroics, but to let you know that some of my experiences were published in The Times of India and DNA, while I kept blogging too during my first visit to Dantewada. This time, I would love to feel secure that once I return, a media publication would be willing to give me some good column space to write what I see in Orissa. It would be nice if you could let me know if there is any media house willing to tell the untold stories and show the unseen images of what humans can do to one another, for the love of greed.

I hope I am able to board the train for the 38-hour journey, with a secure heart that yes, mainstream journalism isn't yet dead.

Thanks and regards,
Priyanka Borpujari

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