On September 12, a screenshot from the in-famous newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ started making the rounds on the internet. The screenshot showed the headline of the paper with uneven words arranged differently, unlike the front page of an English daily. The page carried a Simpsons cartoon in response to the arrest of a journalist made by the Mamata government for reporting against the Hooch trade.
Debmalya Bagchi worked for the Anand Bazar Patrika and was arrested by the state police on September 6. The development came days after he wrote multiple articles about hooch traders operating in the TMC-controlled Sanjoal area in Kharagpur Municipality.
As per the viral clipping the, front page of ‘The Telegraph’ read, “Our Group Journalist has been arrested by West Bengal police for reporting illegal business of Hooch Wine,”
The subhead of the article read, “Here is our editor’s message to the WB Govt – Jahapanah Tusi great ho, Tofah Kabool karo (Emperor, you are great. Please accept our gift). It is a very famous dialogue from movie ‘3 idiots.’
A caricature of Homer Jay Simpson flashing his behind to the West Bengal government was included with the letter. The Simpsons is a US-based animated sitcom with Homer as its primary character. The image is known as “Kiss my yellow butt.”
Notably, while checking the original editions of The Telegraph it came out that no such article was published by the group or a caricature was placed in its front page. Shockingly, from September 11 to 12 not a single report on the arrest of the journalist was covered by the organisation on their front page.
Notably, Bagchi was arrested by the West Bengal police for exposing the Hootch trade running in the region. The BJP leader of opposition, Suvendu Adhikari shared the FIR and exposed the Mamata government and the local media who did not bother to cover the story.
In his Tweet Adhikari narrated the cronology of events that led to the arrest of the journalist. He wrote, On 27th August 2023, the Kharagpur edition of Anandabazar Patrika published a report highlighting hooch traders operating from houses in the residential area of Sanjoal in Ward No 24 of Kharagpur Municipality.
In his post on platform X, Adhikari wrote, “The article highlighted the efforts made by Smt. Basanti Das and the other ladies of the locality tried their best to lawfully obstruct the illegal trade which was catering to teenagers and poisoned the environment so much that women weren’t feeling safe. They sought help from the Police, local Councillor and chairperson of the Municipality, but everyone was reluctant to act.”
“The article created ripples as the inaction of the Police and administration and illegal Hooch business operations within residential area got highlighted. Police detained a few drunkards to contain public outrage but the main operators managed to hide,” Adhikari’s Tweet further read.
It’s interesting to note that on August 28, the family members of hooch dealers filed a complaint against the women who had initially gone to the police to report the illicit activity.
An FIR was then registered under sections 3(1)(r)(s) of the IPC with sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was also invoked. The complainant claimed in the complaint made on August 27 that the women had attacked them and were using sexist language. Additionally, she claimed that the woman had injured her by yanking her clothing.
On 7th September, Anandabazaar Patrika published another report highlighting the hooch dealers’ attack on Basanti Das and other complainants. The report highlighted that seven houses in the neighbourhood are involved in the illegal hooch trade. The women have been complaining for more than two years, but neither the police nor the administration have done anything about it.
It should be noted that the Anandabazar Patrika correspondent had written on the local government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the hooch trade and the intimidation of informants by those engaged in the manufacture of illicit alcoholic beverages.