Parabhjit Singh said that the mob was targeting Shahid Tantray for his Muslim name, and the attackers had only abuses for the minority community
NEW DELHI — Three journalists working with The Caravan, who were waylaid and assaulted on Tuesday by a mob in Subhash Mohalla locality of north east Delhi, recounted the horrifying mob attack before mediapersons at the Press Club of India here on Thursday.
The trio had gone to the locality to report on religious tensions. A woman reporter was “sexually harassed and physically assaulted” in the mob assault.
According to them, two days have passed but the police are yet to register an FIR into the incident.
The two male journalists Parabhjit Singh and Shahid Tantray, a photojournalist, spoke at the presser which was attended by author Arundhati Roy, prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan and The Caravan editor Hartosh Singh Bal.
“When we were filming the wide shots, a man came to us and asked why we are taking photographs” Tantray said and added that he told him he was not intruding into anyone’s privacy. But the man who identified himself as secretary of the local unit of the BJP, demanded Tantray’s identity card.
“The moment he saw my name, he responded with a communal slur and then said I can do the same with you which we do with you people.”
He then invited more people. They forced Tantray to delete the footage. The BJP man kept on instigating people and told them Tantray was a Muslim. Tantray said the man called him katwa Muslim, a pejorative term used against Muslims in India. “One woman with a camera strap tried to strangulate me. They would beat me intermittently for one and a half hours. They closed the gates at both the ends of the street and did not allow us to leave. At one point, when I tried to escape, my collar was grabbed from the back and I was beaten,” recalled Tantray.
Parabhjit Singh said that the mob was targeting Tantray for his Muslim name. “They had only abuses for the minority community.” Parabhjit was all praise for Tantary for the way he conducted himself throughout the ordeal. “He was very bold and he remained firm. He was talking to the mob, looking into their eyes, assertively.”
According to Parabhjit, the mob did not budge even when two cops arrived on the scene. The cops took us away by assuring the mob not to worry and told them they were taking them to the police station.
When we were in the police van, Parabhjit said the BJP man came to the door and told Tantray, “if I again see you in this area, I will kill you.”
Parabhjit was disappointed at the way the police dealt with them. “At the station, policemen were asking to hurry when I was writing the complaint. They said if we take more time it will not be good on part of the investigation.”
Tantray recounted a part of the conversation with a police officer. “A senior cop there said something interesting, which is very important to mention here. He said, indeed, the country got independence in 1947 but the real independence came 5-7 years ago. “See the people can now beat anyone, this is freedom.” The comments left Tantray baffled. They left the station at around 11:30 pm.
Bal, the editor, read out a statement by the woman journalist, who described the physical and sexual assault as “the most traumatising experience of my life.” According to Parabhjit, she shivered and was shocked when she described to the press her ordeal in the police station. Bal said: “The woman reporter is chased, sexually harassed. She is chased by 15 men and women in different gullys (lanes).”
Bhushan, Supreme Court advocate, condemned the attack on the journalists and linked it with the ‘currect’ environment of hate and breakdown of law and order. “Government has done nothing. This is a serious situation,” Bhushan said. “When rule of law breaks down, the societies descend into chaos and ultimately everybody suffers.”
Though the Editors Guild is yet to come out with a statement, several journalist bodies and rights groups, including Amnesty International, condemned the attack and urged the authorities to file cases against those involved in the attack on the three journalists.