Madikeri: The man is indeed a rare example in the media world in the present times.
He faced threats to his life for exposing corruption in the political circles. When this did not work, he was offered a whopping amount of Rs one crore to hush up the matter. Besides, he was even offered a highly lucrative alternative employment. But the man stood steadfast and remained dedicated to his profession and integrity.
And he is none other than Ajjamada Ramesh Kuttappa, senior correspondent of Vijayavani Kannada weekly in Kodagu. It all started when he exposed the irregular land grants made during the tenure of Mandepanda Suja Kushalappa as the president of the ‘Akrama-Sakrama’ committee, a competent authority in Virajpet, invested with the powers of regularizing encroachment on government lands.
In early 2013, Kuttappa filed a series of investigative reports in Vijayavani on the irregularities committed. Enraged by this, Suja Kushalappa, during a victory celebration held in the Cauvery hall in Madikeri on March 23, 2013, verbally abused Kuttappa who had gone to the venue to cover the event. He is also said to have held out a threat to Kuttappa’s life.
The young reporter was pitted against a powerful family from Madapur. Of the other siblings, one is an MLA and former minister and another the newly-elected MLC. Interestingly, another brother is the treasurer of the district unit of another party.
Yet, Kuttappa did not cow down before the clout. The matter was reported to the police, who subsequently filed a chargesheet against Kushalappa. The junior magistrate first class court in Madikeri held him guilty and sentenced him to two-year imprisonment. The accused has filed an appeal in the district and sessions court against the ruling of the lower court.
In December 2015, Kushalappa was being projected as an MLC candidate. But the court ruling came in the way as a strong ground from disqualification from contesting. Hence he reportedly tried to mend fences with Kuttappa so that he could get a clearance to contest the legislative council election.
Kuttappa felt heavy pressure coming from different quarters. A threat to his life too was repeated. When he remained unmoved, an MP is said to have sent a feeler offering him Rs 10 lakh to agree for a compromise.
When that too did not succeed, the ante was reportedly raised to Rs 1 crore. Besides, he was given an irresistible offer of another employment, tagged with remuneration and perks, which can be considered too good to be true. Neither did he melt nor did he wilt.
Simply refusing to buckle down, he firmly stood his ground and spurned all the offers. Thus he stood out as a rare role model for others to emulate.
When cosying up with the powers-that-be and toeing the line with the ruling classes is the order of the day for the media houses, not many among their owners may have supported and stood by their editors and reporters in similar circumstances.
But Vijayavani’s owner and transport baron Vijay Sankeshwar, in appreciation of his integrity and in recognition of his dedication to his profession, announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh to Kuttappa, besides a 10-gm gold medal.
Earlier, for 12 years, he had worked for Vijaya Karnataka daily, which, incidentally, was owned by Vijay Sankeshwar at one time. Now Kuttappa has been with Vijayavani as senior correspondent for the last three years. He has served as general secretary of Kodagu District Working Journalists’ Union for three terms and as treasurer for one term. Currently he is the president of the organization and is also a director of the Kodagu Press Club.
Kuttappa’s fields of interest are politics, environmental issues and investigative reporting. He has won an award from the state government for environmental reporting in 2011, district Kannada Rajyotsava award in 2008, state-level awards for three best reports and 12 district-level awards from the KDWJU.
Quite unassuming in disposition and with no airs about his achievement, Kuttappa spoke exclusively to this writer and shared all these experiences of his in the field.
Initially, he, by own admission, had never thought he would become a scribe some day. Instead, he would rather become a lawyer to fight injustice.
Now looking back, he may have felt that a degree in Law could stand him in good stead in journalism. However, in an attempt to make it up, he pursued a post-graduate degree in Political Science.
Here’s wishing a colleague in the media further laurels.