Four days after deadly riots broke out in the North-East region of Delhi which have claimed 42 lives so far, many journalist claimed that they were brutalised by the Delhi police, following which a delegation of journalists comprising members of Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps and the Press Association called on I&B Minister Prakash Javdekar and submitted a memorandum to him narrating horrifying stories of assault on journalists.
The journalists told the minister that while Delhi Police was repeatedly called for assistance by the journalists, its personnel assaulted the media persons instead of rendering them help.
“The delegation, in its memorandum, highlighted the brutal and rough treatment unleashed by the police in the recent rioting in North-East Delhi where journalists were shot at, heckled and even attacked by batons and rods and the police was found wanting in rendering assistance to assaulted reporters and camera persons/crews,” reads the release issued by the delegation.
Meanwhile, many journalists associated with various media organizations shared their stories on social media.
Anindya Chattopadhyay of Times of India wrote:
My horrifying experience began when I reached Maujpur Metro Station around 12.15 PM. I was taken by surprise when a Hindu Sena member suddenly approached me offering to put tilak on my forehead saying it would make my work “easier”. He could see me with cameras, which identified me as a photojournalist. However, he was insistent. “You are also a Hindu, bhaiya. What is the harm?”
A few men near a Shiv Mandir stopped me. When I told them, I was going to take photographs, they told me not to go there. “Bhai, aap bhi to Hindu ho? Kyun jaa rahe ho? Aaj Hindu jaag gaya hai. (Brother, you are also a Hindu. Why are you going there? Hindus have woken up today,” said one of them.
As soon as I started taking photos, a few men wielding bamboo sticks and rods surrounded me. They tried to snatch my camera, but my reporter colleague, Sakshi Chand, stepped in front of me and dared them to touch me. The men decided to slink away.
A short while later I realised they were following me. A youth accosted me and asked, “Bhai, tu zyada uchhal raha hai. Tu Hindu hai ya Musalman? (Brother, you are acting very smart. Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?)” They threatened to take off my pants to confirm my religion. I then folded my hands and said I was just a lowly photographer. They then gave me a few threats but let me go.
Desperate to leave the area, I started looking for my office vehicle, but it was nowhere to be found. I then walked a few hundred metres towards Jafrabad when I spotted an autorickshaw. The driver agreed to take me to ITO.
I later realised that the name embossed on the auto could land us in trouble with the mob around. As fate would have it, we were soon stopped by four men. They caught hold of our collars to drag us out of the auto. I pleaded with them to let us go, saying I was a press member and the auto driver was innocent.
When the driver dropped me off, I realised he was shaken to the core. “I have never been questioned about my religion in this grotesque manner in my life,” he said before parting ways.
Vijayta Lalwani of Scroll shared her experience as below:
Saffron flags fluttered near Maujpur Chowk with a loudspeaker blaring the campaign song used by the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election: “Main Bhi Chowkidaar Hoon”. Among the few women in the crowd was Seema Pradhan, 56, who identified herself as a worker of the BJP. She said their sit-in demonstration had begun at 6 AM on February 24 and would only be called off after the anti-CAA protestors had been evicted from Jaffrabad. “If they move, then we will move too,” she said.
Further ahead of Maujpur Chowk, I found bricks and stones lying scattered on the road near Kabir Nagar. Earlier in the day, reporters had witnessed intense clashes in several localities of North East Delhi, including Yamuna Vihar, between CAA supporters and those opposed to the new law.
Around 3 pm, I walked back towards Maujpur Chowk, as smoke billowed out of a mattress shop located barely 100 metres from the site where CAA supporters were staging their demonstration. A group of men stood there, chanting “Jai Shri Ram” and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. They warned reporters not to record photos or videos.
Eyewitnesses told me the shop had been set on fire around 2.45 PM. Policemen stood near the spot, offering no reaction. Half an hour later, around 3.15 PM, I watched as the men set another shop on fire, right next to the mattress shop.
Not only did the police fail to act against the mob, in one instance, they were seen asking the CAA supporters to throw stones at those opposed to the law.
At 3.45 PM, about 100 metres away, a large crowd of anti-CAA protestors had formed a human chain, while some group members could be seen negotiating with the police. On the side was the carcass of a burnt vehicle. A police official said one of the protestors from Jaffrabad had set the vehicle on fire during the day.
A journalist with India Today wrote on Twitter:
This is a riot! Protesters from both sides heckling & thrashing media persons. I was told "Camera band karle warna gaad denge yahin pe". All this while 10 men were holding me tightly from my waist & shoulders. Have never felt so scared! Camera person was pushed badly with lathis.”
On Tuesday, Nidhi Razdan of NDTV tweeted, “Two of my colleagues Arvind Gunasekar and Saurabh Shukla were badly beaten by a mob just now in Delhi, they only stopped beating them after realising they are ‘our people- Hindus’. Absolutely despicable.”