A People’s Journalist

Abhay Kumar

Adivasi Rights journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh completes one year in jail. In his absence, the family has suffered hardship. Her wife Ipsa Shatakshi has been fired from her teaching job at a private school, yet she remains resolute in waging the battle outside.

While 38-year-old Rupesh is put in jail and the family needs more financial support, Ipsa was asked to quit the job. Apart from the family needs, she has to pay for the education of six-year-old son, Agrim. Amid this financial crisis, she has to offer private tuition. From pursuing the legal battle to fighting for the release of her husband, she works as a brave woman. Even in this difficult time, she is pursuing law and doing a course in journalism through the distance mode. Earlier she did B.Com and M.Com and earned a degree in Bachelor of Education. During an interaction, she is optimistic and firmly believes that Rupesh would be released soon. Her political conviction keeps her resolute and unwavering.

At present, Ipsa lives in Ramgarh (Jharkhand) while his husband is imprisoned in Patna’s Beur Jail. When Rupesh was earlier kept in Ranchi Jail, it was much easier for her to meet him because of the relative proximity of the jail to her home. Not many people know that Rupesh and Ipsa became friends through social media. She has been very active on social media platforms and Rupesh first noticed her there. Her father Vishad Kumar is a journalist and politically left-oriented person. Rupesh has also been associated with the left organisations since his student days. Their shared political worldviews brought them closer. In 2016, they finally got married.

In an online interview with the writer, 38-year-old Ipsa recalled that a few colleagues at her school were quite helpful. But later the school authority decided to fire her.

One year ago on July 17, 2022, Rupesh was arrested from his hometown Ramgarh by Jharkhand police. Since he was relentlessly writing against the exploitation of natural resources in Adivasi areas and raising voices against the attacks on their lives and liberty through his pen, he became a thorn in the eye of the establishment. As an exercise of silencing him, he was first arrested in 2019 under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Since the Bihar police failed to file the charge sheet, he got bail in December 2019. But again he was arrested last year and charged with several provisions of the IPC. So far, he has been charged with four cases including draconian UAPA. At present, he has been incarcerated in Beur Jail.

Earlier, Rupesh alleged that his phone was put under surveillance by Pegasus (spyware). To substantiate his claim, he said that whenever he reached any Adivasi area for reporting, he noticed that some unidentified people were already present there to persuade the local people against him. According to him, this was an indicator that his movement was being monitored. Against this regime of surveillance, he, along with some other journalists, moved to the Supreme Court.

He has provided a valid critique of the developmental model that the ruling classes are forcing upon the people. He has also argued that the areas inhabited by the Adivasi community are bereft of the basic amenities including the safe drinking water, while, at the same time, the localities occupied by the outsiders and business classes have every facility.

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Vol 56, No. 12, Sep 17 - 23, 2023