Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A plea to everyone...

Our dear colleague Soumya Viswanathan was murdered in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
It is a terribly tragic moment for every one of us.
Once we get over the grief, it's important to get to the bottom of this dastardly act. Who did it? And why?
To this end, we would like to launch a campaign "Justice for Soumya". There will be a signature campaign and a resolution will be passed, both of which will be petitioned to the Home Minister of India.
We urge each member of the Press Club of India and of the Indian Women's Press Corps to join this campaign of ours. The details are mentioned below.
Date: 4October 2008
Venue: Press Club of India
Time: 1 PM
Soumya Viswanathan
It's been almost two days now since Soumya was murdered. The dust has settled. The rounds of the hospitals and mortuaries, the police interrogations...visits to her house...all that's done for the moment. We've all had time to get over what was a shattering experience.

But none of us - believe me, none of us here in office (forget at Soumya's house) have managed to get over anything. It's still the most shattering experience we have ever had. And I am talking about a group of seasoned journalists who have covered and lived with some of the worst experiences any human being can encounter. I am talking about people who have - like every one of you - experienced personal losses. Big ones. Serious ones. Trust me when I say that none of us have been as shattered ever before.

We tend to say this about everyone we lose, but believe me when I say that Soumya was probably the only all-good person we ever knew. A bit boring, isn't it? To be so good? Maybe. But that can't count against you. It didn't count against Soumya either.

Four years ago (almost), Soumya and I started work at Headlines Today on the same day. She had been told (or warned) about me by the venerable Arijit Sen, colleagues at The Pioneer before she came to Headlines Today and he went off to become an ace north-east correspondent for CNN-IBN. Can't say Soumya and I became huge friends immediately, but I can tell you that within a month or so, Soumya was the most popular person in office. Without a doubt.

And that's because she was the person she was.

As journalists, we cover deaths, we thrust our mikes up people's faces, forever trying to get the story we want, never bothering about the sentiments of the person concerned. Today, for the first time, we are all that person. One of us is the story. The headline has come home to roost. Random theories are floating around. Random insinuations are being thrown around. Like we all did when the Aarushi story happened. We asked each other if the 15-year-old girl was actually sleeping with her domestic help. We asked each other if the little girl was sleeping with her father. We said whatever we felt like about Aarushi, because beyong the obvious point, we didn't care. We still don't. Like you, possibly, don't care about Soumya. And you can't be blamed. Because we were not blamed then.

Anyway, to cut short what could become an interminally long ramble, Soumya's murder needs to be avenged. There's nothing else we can do. For the moment, we are just sitting here doing nothing, writing things that don't really mean anything, feeling completely impotent. But if we can help the police bring Soumya's killer to book, we would have done the only thing we can realistically do.

It would help if you can help. Join in the campaign. If you're a journalist, cover the event and spread the word. Or just come. You would have wanted to meet Soumya if you could.
And here are a couple of links you can visit (sites created by people who knew Soumya, visited by everyone who agrees with her friends):