On May 30, in Odisha state, six unidentified individuals wielding a machete and other sharp objects attacked Patra, a reporter with local news daily Samaja, cutting his head, chest, and hands, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ. He was taken to a local hospital following the attack and released on June 3, according to those reports.
Patra told CPJ that he believes he was targeted because of an investigative article he published on May 8 alleging that a local sand mining operator was working illegally. The company was fined 1.6 million rupees ($23,000) following the publication of the article, he said.
“Covering the environment can be dangerous in India, especially reporting on illegal mining and extraction of natural resources. It will remain so unless authorities rigorously uphold journalists’ rights to report freely,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy executive director, in New York. “Police in Odisha must find all those behind the attack on Pratap Patra and bring them to justice.”
On May 8, shortly after the article’s publication, the sand mining operator mentioned in the piece called Patra and threatened him with revenge, but Patra told CPJ he did not take the threat seriously. When Patra heard that representatives of the mining group were inquiring about his movements and whereabouts, however, he went to the police on May 29, but was told to return later when the inspector in charge was present, he told CPJ.