Blogger Deletes Posts On Ravindra Patil. Issues A Public Apology To Salman Khan

Soumyadipta Banerjee's blog posts about Ravindra Patil were removed and a public apology was issued to Salman Khan. The deleted posts are related to the actor's 2002 Hit-and-Run-case

Soumyadipta Banerjee’s Blog Post

Why is the world (to be read as governments and people in power) scared about the social media and blogging. The reason being the common man today has become a publisher. But such powers are not being appreciated and we are constantly being reminded through social media regulation and blog post deletions. Many cases in the past have involved influential people getting bad content about them removed from the Internet.

Blogger Soumyadipta Banerjee asked to delete his post

The latest victim is Soumyadipta  Banerjee (SB), film critic and journalist writing on Indian Commercial Cinema. Apart from working as a Chief Bureau at Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd. (Times Group), SB has been maintaining a popular blog – BollywoodJournalist and a Facebook page – Bollywoodbingo, a community that supports the blog.

Of late the blogger had posted a blog vividly describing the life and death of Constable Ravindra Patil, the only eye witness in Salman Khan’s famous 2002 Hit-and-Run-case. The post was one of the best I had read in recent times and it had garnered a lot of eyeballs. While the post found many supporters, many didn’t like it too and in this was Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan. The blogger was asked to delete two of his posts – 1) Ravindra Patil: The death of a messenger, and 2) The Wretched Witness – another post that spoke about the witness. There is a Google Cache version of the first blog post but nothing for the second one. Update: Here is the Google cache version of the second blog post too.

Excerpts of the blog post - Ravindra Patil: The death of a messenger

In his post – “Ravindra Patil: The death of a messenger”, SB talks about the famous 2002 hit and run case and how the constable who was the prime witness found himself in the epicentre of controversy. The post starts with the enormous pressure he was put under to change his statement. Quoting from the blog post –

“There were many who wanted Patil to change his statement. They preferred that Patil maintain that Salman leaned back to listen to him seconds before he lost control of the wheel. This would mean that the accident was caused by a ‘human error’ and not because he was drunk.  Some people wanted him to say that Salman was not drunk at the time of the accident.”

But Constable Ravindra didn’t change his statement. And what followed later in the life of a witness is really shameful in a country like India which calls itself the biggest democracy in the world. Scared, Constable Ravindra started avoiding the unwanted attention he was getting from all quarters. In doing so, Patil was missing in the witness box and to the biggest surprise Patil ended up being locked in the Arthur Road jail.

“In a strange twist of fate, a man who had actually lodged the first information report against Salman Khan now had an arrest warrant issued against him for not turning up at court hearings. The arrest warrant was issued after he failed to appear for five consecutive court dates.

As the judge ordered that he be arrested and produced in court, his seniors at the police force simultaneously approved that Patil be sacked from his job because he was absent from duty. His seniors chose to ignore the fact that technically Patil was ‘missing’ and not ‘absent’ according to their own records.

Nobody was interested in knowing why he had run away from his house. Or, why the same person who was so forthcoming in lodging a complaint against a Bollywood star like Salman Khan, didn’t want to take the witness-box. Patil was never put under any witness protection programme.”

Patil ended up in a separate cell like he was an armed dacoit or a serial killer. At the same time, he was sacked from his job. The most shocking end was well said by SB,

“A witness was suddenly at the receiving end of it all. Life was dealing this grand witness blows after blows while Salman Khan delivered hits after hits at the box office.”

And after Patil was let out of jail, his family disowned him and the Mumbai Police anyways did not support him too. Patil went missing and was finally discovered at the Sewri Municipal hospital in 2007, while he had contracted drug-resistant tuberculosis which fast-tracked him towards an inevitable end.

Constable Ravindra Patil died on October 4, 2007.

Public Apology from Soumyadipta Banerjee

Deleting the posts was not enough. SP had to write an apology to Salman Khan. This was the last post from the blogger, who has also added that he is taking a break from writing on his blog till he is in a proper frame of mind.

The question remains - Why was Soumyadipta Banerjee asked to pull off his blog posts? The content that he has shared is nothing new; it has been in the public domain. The video by NDTV says it all.

The blogger has not revealed the reason as to why was he asked to delete his blog post and what was the public apology for. I’m not sure if some facts in the blog post were misleading or causing harm to Salman Khan’s reputation, but then you can always edit it if that was the case. Deleting a blog post questions a citizen’s right to freedom of expression.

After online privacy becoming a myth, will freedom of speech meet the same fate? Do you think that deletion of blog posts is justified?

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