Journalist detained, communally abused and questioned by UP police

Omar Rashid, a correspondent with The Hindu was picked up with his friend and activist Robin Sharma who was beaten up in custody


It has begun. After the crackdown on the people, especially the students in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states who are protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the impending National Register of Citizens (NRC), journalists covering the protests have now come in to the firing line of the government.

Just the way journalists were detained in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, they are now being targeted and wrongly accused of violence by the state in the wake of the CAA protests.

Omar Rashid, a correspondent with The Hindu who was in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, to cover the agitation taking place against the CAA and NRC, narrated in his report the horror he was subjected to after the police picked him and local activist Robin Verma from a dhaba outside the Uttar Pradesh BJP office where they were peacefully having a meal.

“Around 6:45 pm on Friday evening, I was trying to grab a quick meal at a dhaba outside the Uttar Pradesh BJP office, waiting to hear about a press conference to be held by the UP government a few blocks away, when at least four men in plainclothes barged in. I was accompanied by Robin Verma, a local activist and friend, and two others, both journalists. The men did not identify themselves and inquired about us using strong and aggressive language. They told me they wanted to question me about something. At the very first instance, I revealed my identity as a journalist and asked them what the matter was all about. However, they packed the two of us, Robin Verma and me, into a police jeep, snatched my mobile phone and asked me to not call or inform anyone or I would regret it. They refused to explain anything to me and asked me to talk only when they asked.”

They were then taken to the Hazratganj police station where Robin was beaten up.

“They drove us to the Hazratganj police station a km away, where we were told a senior police officer wanted to talk to us. We were then escorted to a room — it looked like a cyber-cell — where within seconds of entering, cops, already stationed there, started thrashing Robin with a thick leather belt and slapped him many times.”

Rashid was locked in a room, threatened, intimidated and questioned about whether or not he was part of the group of people who vandalized police property. His Kashmiri heritage was questioned and he was threatened of being booked under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code which deals with charges of criminal conspiracy.

“They locked the room and asked me to keep silent when I protested why I was brought there. The policemen threatened me they would book me under 120B of the Indian Penal Code if I didn’t keep quiet and also said they had evidence to show I was part of the arsonists who vandalized police property and engaged in violence during the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. I again clarified that I am a journalist and showed them my identity cards. One of them knew me as a journalist but that obviously was not considered”, he said.

“They responded by abusing me and said I should keep my journalism to myself, in abusive Hindi. My Kashmiri background was referred to several times and despite informing them about my newspaper, they continued with their questions and threats. “You are a suspect,” I was told and asked to shut up, he added.

Robin was still being beaten up by the police and he too was threatened of being booked under charges of criminal conspiracy. Both Rashid and Robin were then packed into a jeep and taken to the Sultanpuri police outpost and questioned by officers.

“Here too, we were taken into a tiny room and questioned. The cops repeatedly asked me about the whereabouts of some “Kashmiris” and where I was hiding them. I replied to all their questions in the negative as I had no clue why I was brought there in the first place. A few minutes later, two policemen, of the rank of CO, came in. I was told to stand up. The police officer, whose name I don’t know, told me he would set me right. He was wearing protective gear. I was then taken to another room in the quarters of a constable, where I was also photographed like a suspect.”

Once again Rashid was questioned about being Kashmiri, hurled expletives at and was bullied by the officials who claimed to ‘put him in place’ and ‘tear his beard’ if he didn’t answer questions as per the officials’ liking.

“The same cop who threatened to put me in place, again asked me about the “Kashmiris” and said he would tear out all my beard and thrash me if I didn’t answer his questions as per his liking. Since I didn’t have my phone, I could not note down the long list of expletives used against me. He left after some time and I was kept in the room till around 8:30 pm. I was then called to the office of the Circle Officer of Hazratganj who questioned me for a few more minutes. I was asked the same questions I was asked earlier: if I was a part of the protest, if I knew certain individuals, especially Kashmiris and about my professional and background. I informed them that I was indeed present during the protests, as a journalist covering it. The CO asked me if I felt regret at the violence during the protests and refused to believe me when I did. He also lectured me on the “hypocrisy” of Leftist ideology and heavily criticised China and its clampdown on citizens.”

Rashid, in his account said that the information had reached the Chief Minister’s office (CMO) by then and the cops who had arbitrarily detained and abused him earlier, suddenly let him go.

“The same cops who abused and intimidated me earlier now apologised to me and tried to explain that I was picked up due to a “confusion.” This was despite the fact that I had identified myself as a journalist from the very first moment. The police then let me off.”

Though Rashid was not a part of the protests that took place and repeated time and again that he was only there to cover the proceedings and do his duty as a journalist, the UP police did not stop to consider that at all. They used communal slurs against him and pressurized him to confirm to their views. They arbitrarily beat up Robin without even knowing the truth behind the matter. Detaining journalists, arresting them and muzzling the voice of the media has been an old tactic of the ruling government.

The detention of Rashid and Robin is just another example of the police and the state using force against innocent citizens and arm-wresting them into succumbing to pressure to give up their fight. Although Robin wasn’t so lucky, Rashid bore a better fate. However, the incident has raised a question.

After Rashid, will there be more journalists suffering a similar clampdown at the hands of the state and the police?

The original story by Omar Rashid may be read here.


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