In a video that went viral towards the end of March, a man with close-cropped gray hair, surrounded by police, shouts slogans: “Ballia DM chor hai, Ballia SP gunda hai” – Ballia’s district magistrate is a thief, Ballia’s superintendent of police is a thug.
The man, Digvijay Singh, a journalist in Ballia district, had just been arrested with two other reporters on charges of being complicit in the leak of school exam question papers the previous week.
The arrests defied logic – the journalists had been crucial to publishing stories that brought the leaks to the public eye. But this wasn’t unusual – district authorities had in the past, too, targeted those who had exposed the massive problem of exam paper leaks.
As Arunabh Saikia finds, this is something of a professional hazard for journalists in Uttar Pradesh’s smaller towns and cities. Those who uncover stories of misgovernance risk retaliation from displeased authorities. And yet some, like Singh and his colleagues, persevere, despite receiving negligible financial support from the publications that print their stories.