Accused in attack he was covering, journalist set to see cases lifted

NAT

Soorinje, for his part, has sought no leniency for himself if that would result in similar leniency for the main attackers. "If I were to be liberated at the expense of some advantage to be conferred on the assailants, then I do not want such liberation," he told a civil liberties fact-finding committee in a statement. "No matter what punishment is given to the assailants, it will never provide adequate justice to those girls who were assaulted right in front of my eyes. Yet the assailants need to be punished. The way the assailants were manhandling the girls, if the news cameras were not present I shudder to think how much further they would have gone." He said he "was a mute witness... feeling the guilt of not being able to do anything".

A groundswell of support for him has arisen among the media (quietly; not clearly voiced due to the circumstances of the case) and civil liberties activists, growing along with emerging knowledge of acts of kindness he had rendered to people in Mangalore.

There is also a feeling that he may have been tricked into being the only journalist at the scene by vested interests, who may have been upset with his reports on right-wing vigilantism in the region. "It seems he may have been trapped for some of the work he has done in the past. We have heard that he is a decent person. The police were under pressure to book everyone once the judiciary took cognisance of the attacks," a senior police official said.

What will be keenly followed is whether the BJP government, known to have loose affiliations with fringe right-wing outfits, will use the withdrawal of cases against Soorinje to seek a way out of prosecution for the main attackers. Cases against Bajrang Dal attackers on churches in Mangalore in 2008 were withdrawn after cases on Christians who retaliated had been dropped.

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