Friday, June 14, 2024

The Caravan journalists named in Delhi Police FIR four years after Hindutva mob assault

The Caravan journalists Prabhjit Singh (left) and Shahid Tantray(right). Photo courtesy to The Caravan

Four years after being assaulted by a Hindutva mob in Delhi while covering northeast Delhi pogrom in 2020, three journalists from The Caravan are now facing serious charges of outraging the modesty of a woman and promoting communal enmity.

The Caravan revealed that they were not informed about the first information report (FIR) filed against their journalists in 2020. The magazine has alleged that the Delhi police unexpectedly informed three of their journalists, nearly four years after an incident of violence against their journalists in Delhi in 2020, that they were named in an FIR. The journalists face serious charges, including sections 354, which pertains to outraging the modesty of a woman, and 153A, which involves promoting communal enmity.

On August 11, 2020, journalists Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh, and a female reporter were attacked in Subhash Mohalla, northeast Delhi, according to The Caravan’s press release.

“The journalists were subjected to communal slurs and threatened with murder; the woman reporter was sexually harassed. One man who identified himself as “a general secretary” of the Bharatiya Janata Party had launched an attack on our staffers after learning Tantray’s Muslim identity,” it read.

“The attack on our journalists lasted for an hour and a half.”

Once the police intervened, the journalists were taken to Bhajanpura police station, where they filed detailed complaints. The account of the incident is available on The Caravan’s website and widely covered in national and international media, read the press release.

The Caravan was not provided with a certified copy of this FIR, citing its “sensitive nature”. It was revealed that the FIR against the journalists was lodged less than an hour before their own FIR on the same day in 2020. Despite filing complaints on the day of the incident, The Caravan’s FIR was not registered until three days later, on August 14, 2020, according to the press release.

“The police informed The Caravan that their FIR is being considered a “counter FIR.”

The Caravan expressed shock and concern over these developments, emphasizing that the allegations in the FIR are false and fabricated. For four years, neither The Caravan nor the named journalists were informed of any such FIR. The investigation into their FIR, which detailed the attack on their staffers, remains pending, with no updates provided for four years.

“By contrast, the alleged case against our reporters has been duly put together,” they said.

“It is also extremely concerning that our reporters, who were reporting on accusations against the police by a Delhi violence complainant, are now facing an FIR at the same police station.”

At the time they were attacked, the magazine says, the three journalists were conducting follow-up reporting on an article by Singh and Tantray.

“The article was centred on a Muslim woman who had accused police officials at the Bhajanpura police station of beating and sexually assaulting her and her 17-year-old daughter a few days earlier,” they said.

“The woman had approached the police in early August 2020, after communal tensions arose in the area following the foundation-stone-laying ceremony of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Earlier that year, the woman in question had also filed a complaint regarding the Delhi violence of February 2020. The conduct of the police during the violence, especially towards Muslims, has come under serious question.”

The Caravan sees the naming of its journalists in a false and fabricated case as an attempt to suppress their reporting—an attack on press freedom and a violation of freedom of speech and expression.

“We have joined the investigation and intend to comply fully with the due process of law. We will exercise our rights under the law to challenge these false accusations and have them dismissed,” they said.

The Press Club of India (PCI) has strongly condemned the FIR against The Caravan journalists. “The Press Club of India strongly condemns the FIR against journalists of The Caravan under serious sections such as IPC 354 and 153(A) at the Bhajanpura Police Station in North East Delhi,” it said in a statement.

“Most disturbing is the fact that the journalists who were reporting on allegations against the police were attacked and are now facing a serious FIR at the same police station. The same police has not followed up on the FIR by The Caravan journalists,” it further read.

“This is a clear attempt to suppress journalists and to throttle press freedom.”

The PCI extended its full support to the journalists of The Caravan “who are being persecuted simply for carrying out their journalistic duty”. “We also condemn the biased and vindictive conduct of the Delhi Police. We call on the Delhi Police to carry out its duty fairly and without bias, to halt the FIR against the journalists and to properly investigate the FIR by the Caravan journalists. We also call on the Delhi High Court to monitor the investigations so that power is not misused to attack press freedom,” the PCI’s statement added.

In India, the assault on journalists is part of a concerning pattern. India’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index dropped to a worrying 159 out of 180 countries just last month.

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