Three journalists from Caravan magazine have alleged they were physically assaulted by unidentified people in North East Delhi on Tuesday. One of them was sexually harassed. Delhi Police is yet to register a first information report, despite the reporters filing detailed complaints.
Two of the reporters were identified as Prabhjit Singh and Shahid Tantray. Along with a woman colleague, they were reporting on communal tensions that broke out in the area on the night of August 5, following the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. A group celebrating the Ram temple event had allegedly shouted anti-Muslim slogans and placed saffron flags on the gates of Subhash Mohalla that day.
In a statement released on Twitter, the Caravan said that a group of people physically assaulted the reporters, threatened to kill them and used communal slurs. One among them, dressed in a saffron kurta, claimed he was the “BJP general secretary,” they added.
The statement said that upon learning Tantray’s name, the attackers, including the man who claimed he was from the BJP, beat him and used communal slurs against him. “They threatened to kill him,” it added.
Local police personnel subsequently managed to take the staffers to the nearby Bhajanpura station. In his complaint, Prabhjit Singh wrote that were he not present, “the mob led by that saffron-clad man would have lynched Shahid for his Muslim identity”.
Meanwhile, the third staffer, a woman, was sexually harassed and physically assaulted, Caravan said. “After the mob began attacking her, Tantaray and Prabhjit Singh, she managed to extricate herself and escape to a neighbouring gully,” they added.
However, young men surrounded her in the alley and allegedly took her pictures and videos without consent, and verbally harassed her. A middle-aged man allegedly exposed his genitals and made lewd facial expressions at her.
“As the woman staffer ran and attempted to reach the Bhajanpura station, the mob attacked her again,” the statement added. “The attackers beat her on her head, arms, hips and chest. The man in the saffron kurta was among them, as were two women.”
On Tuesday night, the magazine’s political editor Hartosh Singh Bal said that despite two detailed complaints filed by the reporters, no FIR has been registered by the police in the case so far.
The deputy commissioner of police for North East Delhi, Ved Prakash Surya, confirmed the incident. He told The Indian Express that the Caravan staffers “had gone to report on a story and people in the area got annoyed. Police safely evacuated the three. We got reports they were manhandled but nobody has suffered any major injuries. We will do an inquiry before filing an FIR… We do not have any information regarding why they went there.”
On Tuesday, Singh and Tantray had reported in Caravan about two women and a teenage girl who had accused the police in Bhajanpura of sexually assaulting them on August 8, when they had gone to file a complaint about the people who had shouted the slogans at midnight, asking Muslim people in the area to leave the neighbourhood.
The complainants told Caravan that the police had beat them, touched them inappropriately and tore their clothes. “We live in a state of panic every day and night now,” one of the women had said.
The complainants said that they had first approached the police on August 6 but the police did not formally record their complaint. One of the complainants said that the police called her to the station on August 8 with a copy of her complaint. She said that their lawyer sent the complaint to them by 7 pm and they could get to the police station only by 9 pm.
They were also made to wait for hours. The woman told the magazine that the police gave them a signed copy of the complaint but refused to file a first information report. She added that when they demanded an FIR, the police became aggressive. The woman said that the police had threatened to “beat them to death” if they kept returning with their complaints.
After the large-scale communal violence in Delhi in February, the police had erected a gate at the entrance to the part of Subhash Mohalla where many Muslims live, according to the magazine. The husband of one of the complainants told the magazine that he had seen a Hindu group tie fireworks to the lock of the gate.
This story first appeared on August 11, 2020 in ‘Scroll’ here.