Prashant Kanojia is a straight-shooter who questions people in power, say colleagues; journo's wife claims tweet was a joke

Lucknow: Freelance Journalist Prashant Kanojia's four-day ordeal in a Lucknow jail came to an end on 12 June when, on the Supreme Court’s orders, he was released on bail. An alumnus of the 2013-2015 batch of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Kanojia had been arrested in Delhi by the Uttar Pradesh Police for posting a satirical tweet on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

According to his former IIMC roommate Punit Kumar Singh, Kanojia was made to clean toilets while he was lodged in hail. "I met Prashant in Lucknow jail and he told me that he is undergoing mental torture as the warden and others were hurling abuses at him."

Kanojia's wife Jagisha Arora had reached Lucknow late on 11 June with a copy of the Supreme Court's bail order asking for her husband's immediate release. Kanojia's advocate is said to have advised him to return to Delhi immediately and not to speak to the media in Lucknow. "Prashant raises questions on the government and I think this is not being liked by the people in power," said Jagisha. On the specific post that got him arrested, "police and government should have taken this tweet as a humour," she said. "The arrest cannot be justified."

In a Facebook post, Kanojia thanked the media, his family, well-wishers and the Supreme Court:

The Lucknow police, including, Director General of Police O P Singh and Lucknow SSP’s PRO refused to comment on the issue, with the DGP walking out without saying a word when confronted by a group of journalists.

 Prashant Kanojia is a straight-shooter who questions people in power, say colleagues; journos wife claims tweet was a joke

In a Facebook post, Prashant Kanojia thanked his wife Jagisha Arora for standing by him. Image/Facebook

Kanojia had an activist streak and was quick to take up issues related to campus and caste, said his friends. "Prashant never hesitated in being vocal on issues he felt were worth taking up," said Punit. "Even in IIMC he raised various issues and was suspended for a short time. Prashant was not inclined towards any particular ideology and has been called a Congress supporter, a Leftist and what not on social media. He loved covering protests and it was clear he was a man who wanted to highlight problems with government policies and governance. He even participated in the Manusmriti burning programme at Jawaharlal Nehru University."

Kanojia's former boss and Editor of the online publication The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan said he is a team player and a very hardworking journalist. "Prashant had been with The Wire since the beginning of our Hindi website and played a key role in bringing protest news in the mainstream. Prashant leaving The Wire was a big loss for us." Condemning his arrest, Varadarajan said, "This was totally unfair and the sections slapped against our former colleague are irrelevant."

Shristi Singh, one of Kanojia's former colleagues at The Wire, said despite having differences on various issues, she found him a “wonderful person and a journalist with a different approach towards any issue. The Wire was doing a programme on the 25th anniversary of Babri demolition and Prashant went on the streets and did a live conversation with school students on the issue. The kids who did not know anything about the demolition talked about the Ram temple construction. He also raised the issue of growing cases of lynching in India and played an important role in the #NotinmyName campaign," she said.

"He is a man with strong opinions and no one could make him budge," recalls Zinia Bandhopadhyay, Kanojia's batchmate from IIMC. “He is not diplomatic and hated sugarcoating. There were a few disputes due to his opinions during the course with some batchmates but they were later sorted out."

The author is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and state editor for 101Reporters

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Updated Date: Jun 14, 2019 14:02:41 IST