WASHINGTON, DC – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, condemned the Hindu Mahapanchayat event where at least seven journalists, mostly Muslims, were physically assaulted and harassed by a mob of extremist attendees. Two Muslim journalists reported that the Hindu mob nearly lynched them.
The event was held in New Delhi, the national capital of India on Sunday.
Hindustan Gazette reporter Meer Faisal, photojournalist Md Meharban, and Newslaundry journalists Shivangi Saxena and Ronak Bhat were all assaulted when they went to the venue to cover the event. Article 14 reporter Arbab Ali and The Quint reporter Meghnad Bose and a fifth unnamed journalist were verbally abused.
Ali and Faisal, both Muslim, were attacked while being abused with Islamophobic slurs. They were pushed around, called “jihadis,”, their phones and cameras snatched, the footage of the event was deleted. Ali reported that had the police not intervened and whisked them away from the scene, they could have been lynched by the mob, which was growing increasingly agitated by the presence of Muslim journalists.
Hindu Mahapanchayat, which was held illegally without permission from the authorities in Delhi, was similar to the Dharma Sansad (Hindu religious parliament) genocidal meet held in Uttarakhand state’s Haridwar city last year in December.
On Sunday, the inflammatory speeches made by Hindu militant leaders like Yati Narsinghanand and Suresh Chavhanke, included calls for Hindus to “take up weapons” against Muslims and other minorities in defense of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s extremist Hindu nationalist ideology.
“As horrific as this incident was, it is not surprising. The dangerous decline of democracy and restriction on press freedom in India should be a cause for concern for everyone,” said Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC.
“This is the latest in a series of attacks against journalists in India, where the state and non-state actors are actively using different methods including violence to silence those critical of the BJP government and its hateful Hindu nationalist ideology,” Ahmed added.
IAMC calls upon Delhi law enforcement to investigate the matter impartially and take strict action against all the organisers of Hindu Mahapanchayat and arrest those who assaulted and threatened to kill the journalists. The IAMC calls upon Indian civil society, media watchdogs, and the international community to take a strong stand against the persecution of journalists and the stifling of free press in India, which is the cornerstone of any democratic society.