Rajib Sarma

Assamese reporter Rajib Sarma was arrested at 2am on July 16, 2020 and charged for threat of extortion, criminal intimidation, and criminal force for outraging the modesty of a woman.


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party led by current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been strategically targeting Indian journalists, specifically those critical of the Indian government, since it took power in 2014. According to The Wire, at least 194 journalists were targeted across the country and by state agencies, non-state political actors, and armed opposition groups in 2022.

Activists and human rights advocates have expressed grave concerns over the immense crackdown on free speech in India, according to Wired. Sarma’s arrest created a massive uproar amongst other journalists and politicians from opposition parties, according to Newslaundry.

Life and Activism

Rajib Sarma, a correspondent with Assamese news channel Dy365, was arrested on July 16, 2020. His arrest came a day after Dhubri divisional forest officer Biswajit Roy accused Sarma of demanding money and verbally “misbehaving” with Officer Roy’s wife, according to Newslaundry. Roy also claimed that Sarma “forcefully” took Rs 10,000 from Roy and warned him not to tell anyone.

Prior to his arrest, Sarma had presented a report on Dy365 on alleged widespread cattle smuggling that had occurred in the Dhubri district for a while, according to The Wire. His report covered cattle, timber and sand smuggling in and around the border of India and Bangladesh. The vast majority of Sarma’s reporting in the past year had been on exposing influential people in the smuggling world. Sarma had reported on Dhubri divisional forest officer Biswajit Roy’s alleged connections to cattle smuggling and other illegal activities. Many, including Dy365, claim that the FIR was a direct result of Sarma’s reporting. Sarma’s father died of shock the night of Sarma’s arrest and Sarma was given three days’ interim bail for personal loss.

On July 17, 2020, Dy365 announced it would move to the Gauhati high court seeking justice for Sarma.

Charges and Allegations

Sections 389 (Putting person in fear of accusation of offense, in order to commit extortion), 384 (Punishment for extortion), 385 (Putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extor­tion), 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code have been levied against Sarma, according to The Wire.


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