By Alishan Jafri
LUCKNOW — On Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh Health and Family Welfare Minister, Jai Pratap Singh, was invited for an inauguration programme of a 50-bed hospital in Domariaganj. A Covid facility had to be started at Benwa Community Health Centre in Siddharthnagar.
Several prominent personalities of the district including the Hindu Yuva Vahini leader and Domariaganj BJP MLA, Raghavendra Pratap Singh and Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Tribhuvan Kumar were present on the occasion. After the health minister left the venue, a mob of 12 to 15 men attacked Ameen Farooqui, a reporter with a local television channel called Bharat News. The MLA and SDM were still present at the venue when the attack happened. Ameen has accused both of them of inciting the mob.
The video of the brutal assault immediately went viral on social media. In the video, policemen can also be spotted. However, apparently they did not try to protect Ameen from the mob. Later, the Siddarthnagar police detained him for several hours for questioning. None of the alleged attackers have been detained so far.
Speaking to Clarion India, Ameen’s brother Afnan said, “My brother was illegally detained without an FIR for several hours. They did not follow any Covid protocol with him. None of the goons who brutally assaulted him in the presence of police have been booked. He is getting death threats. Now, we fear retribution by the authorities. If something happens to him, who will be responsible?” asked Afnan.
“I was there to cover the event. My colleague had only asked a question to the SDM. He became angry and began hurling abuses at us. The SDM was very aggressive. We remained quiet and wanted to leave without any conflict. As we were about to leave the place, dozens of people got up and attacked me in the presence of the MLA and SDM. Somehow, I managed to escape and saved my life. When I reached my office, police picked me up from there. I was treated like a criminal,” Ameen told Clarion India.
Siddharthnagar police tweeted a video claiming that it was a personal scuffle between two groups of journalists. “Ameen and his associate had misbehaved with the SDM. This angered a different group of journalists causing the scuffle. We are investigating the matter.”
Ameen has questioned the police’s stance and alleged that this is a cover-up to protect the goons of the MLA and SDM. “How can this be a clash between two groups? I was alone and they were around 10 to 12. Only I was being assaulted. Look at their clothes, do they look like journalists? It is very clear that they are the attackers. Watch the video. They were local right-wing goons who have the patronage of the MLA,” Ameen told Clarion India.
According to a report of Bharat News, Ameen’s critical coverage of Corona deaths and mismanagement by the administration in Dumariyaganj did not go down well with the SDM. Ameen had also raised objections about the alleged corruption in lockdown implementation in the area. He shared with Clarion India screenshots of his WhatsApp chat with SDM Tribhuvan claiming that the SDM had threatened him for his “negative” reportage. “Don’t be worried. When you will get Covid, we’ll cure you too. Let the time come. It will fix everything up. Stay patient,” reads the text.
This reporter tried to contact the SDM but so far he has not responded.
Meanwhile, an FIR has been lodged against Ameen Farooqui, Farhan (the cameraman who shot the video of the assault) and Rashid Siddiqui of Bharat News.
Several journalists and activists took to social media to express solidarity with the journalist. Former IAS Surya Pratap Singh and Tribal Army founder, Hansraj Meena ran the trend #JusticeForAmeen. Brajesh Mishra, the editor of Bharat News called out the UP government for the attack against his reporter. “Rule of law in Siddharthnagar has ended, but this won’t stop us from reporting,” Mishra wrote. Now, Bharat News has assigned three more reporters to the district to report about Covid-19.
Notably, UP CM Yogi Adityanath recently claimed that there is no shortage of oxygen and other essentials in the state despite several media reports about acute shortage. He had also threatened to invoke NSA against those who spread ‘rumours’. A Supreme Court bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on a PIL on Covid-19 management had warned the states against coercive actions and clamp down on free flow of information. “I flag this issue at the outset… We want to make it very clear that if citizens communicate their grievances on social media and the Internet, then it can’t be said it’s wrong information. We don’t want any clampdown on information,” said Chandrachur.
This story first appeared in clarionindia.net