02 August, 2021

An Enduring Impress Of Brutality

Typewriter guerrillas, you could say. Our method to fathom madness, such as with the Bhagalpur blindings, blazed a trail in journalism.

Sandipan Chatterjee
An Enduring Impress Of Brutality

I was barely 21 when I broke the Bhagalpur blindings story, which is considered a milestone in investigative journalism in the country. It won me a United Nations media award, and the barbarity in Bihar—poli­cemen pinning down law-breakers and pouring acid into their eyes, blinding them permanently, to curb a soaring crime rate—became a national and international talking point, cementing Sunday’s position as India’s No. 1 newsmagazine.

Iron Lady Indira Gandhi, who was the prime minister then, broke down in Parliament after confessing that she felt sick at the brutality. Arun Shourie, who was then still a closet Jan Sanghi masquerading as an editor, followed up my own exp­ose with a series of articles in the Indian Express. The scoop also inspired the Bollywood movie Gangajal, which retold the tragedy many years later, in 2003.

Today, students as young as I was when I broke that story in 1980 dissect its significance at journalism schools across India. Sometimes I visit mass communication colleges where...

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