IJU condemns attack on The Caravan journalists

NEW DELHI, Aug 13: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has strongly condemned the mob attack on three journalists of The Caravan on 11 August in Northeast Delhi while they were reporting on a story concerning a Delhi violence complaint.

“Worse, the attack had communal overtones and the police at the Bhajanpura station refused to register FIRs against the complaints filed by the journalists,” the union said, and demanded a thorough investigation, and that the culprits as identified be brought to book.

As per a report in The Caravan, three of its journalists – Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh and a woman journalist (name withheld) – had gone to Subhash Mohalla, in northeast Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood, to follow up about a woman complainant in a case related to the Delhi violence, who had accused police officials at the Bhajanpura police station of beating and sexually assaulting her and her 17-year-old daughter on the night of 8 August.

During the follow-up, the three journalists were “under attack, subjected to communal slurs, threatened with murder, and sexually harassed” for around an hour and a half, the journalists said.

The journalists said they were taking photographs of “saffron flags that had been tied in the area,” when some men approached them and told them to stop. One of them, wearing a saffron kurta and a bandage on his arm, identified himself as a “BJP general secretary.”

Tantray was asked for his identity card, and it was then that the mob launched their attack on Tantray, realizing that he was a Muslim. While attempting to get away from the attack, the woman journalist faced sexual harassment from a middle-aged man who exposed himself to her. Later, the mob attacked her as well.

In a statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary-general Sabina Inderjit said the assault was “an attack on freedom of press, and this growing trend of deliberate attack on journalists of a certain community is unacceptable in any democratic society.”

The journalists were also forced to delete the photographs by the unruly mob, which amounted to gagging the truth from being reported. The IJU recalled that the incident was similar to those experienced by many journalists covering the northeast Delhi riots in February.

The union also condemned the role of the police by refusing to file an FIR at the Bhajanpura station police station, after the journalists filed a complaint, saying that the other side too had filed one.

This, the IJU said, as a sad commentary on the rule of law in the country’s national capital, and that there was dereliction of duty. The union demanded that the Delhi government, the union home ministry and the union information & broadcasting ministry take cognizance of the incident and order a thorough investigation and ensure that the culprits are booked.

“Inaction would amount to making a mockery of the government’s claim of India having a free press,” it said.