In a bizarre reaction to serious allegations, the Delhi Police, which is yet to register a first information report (FIR) into a violent attack on three journalists in the National Capital on August 11, has now sent a rejoinder to The Caravan magazine.
On the day of the attack, the police had received lengthy written complaints by the three working journalists who were attacked, threatened with murder and sexualy assauted while doing their work. It had reportedly said that it needed to hear the ‘other side’ of the story from the mob accused of targeting the journalists. The assaulted journalists had written the detailed complaint as soon as they managed to escape the mob and reach the Bhajanpura Police Station. The woman journalist, who was beaten, and sexually harassed, had written a separate complaint, detailing the trauma she underwent.
Even two days after this, the Delhi Police is yet to lodge an official, first information report, the first step in a police investigation. Instead, it has sent a lengthy rejoinder on August 12, to the magazine and said the journalists’ original report about the happenings at North East Delhi, and the police station was false.
This police rejoinder, signed by Dr. Eish Singhal IPS, the Delhi Police Public Relations Officer (PRO) alleged that the The Caravan journalists who were following up on their own reports from the area were “taking pictures which led to heated exchange of words between media persons and local people.” According to the PRO’s statement, “Police personnel acted swiftly and brought media persons to the police station. Taking pictures without consent may provoke those present and create Law and Order problems including communal problems.”
There is no mention of the assault, allegations made by journalists Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh who were threatened with murder, abused with communal slurs, and badly beaten. The woman journalist was sexually harassed. The woman journalist wrote in her police complaint that the men were “making cheap and lewd comments and started saying ‘Dikhao, dikhao’” (Show, show.) She added that “a middle-aged man in a dhoti and a white T-shirt, with a bald head and a slim pony-tail stood in front of me. He then opened his dhoti and exposed his genitals while looking at me. He proceeded to shake his penis with his hand and started making objectionable and lewd expressions, while laughing at me.”
However, Delhi Police has responded that a cross-allegation was also made by a woman from the Subhash Mohalla locality. It stated, “journalists of Caravan and a lady of the locality had given cross complaints which are being enquired into and appropriate legal action will be taken on conclusion of the enquiry.”
Even as the three affected journalists continue to seek that an FIR be registered, and have been backed by media organisations including, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists, Press Club of India, and Network of Women in Media. But the Delhi Police maintains that it is “doing its work in a professional, free and impartial manner. Enquiry or investigation is being conducted in right earnest on all the matters received in the police station. Appropriate legal or preventive action is taken on any complaint received in the police station as per law and procedures irrespective of faith or religion of the complainant. To suggest otherwise, is a deliberate attempt to malign Delhi Police’s image and is totally biased and unsubstantiated.”
The Full Text of Delhi Police’s rejoinder may be read here:
OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, DELHI.
No. 517 /PRO/PHQ dated Delhi, the 12 .08.2020 .
The Caravan Magazine,
Subject:- Rejoinder to the captioned news item-“Delhi Police beat and sexually assaulted us in Bhajanpura station: Riots complainant and daughter “ published on 10 August 2020.
At the outset, It is stated that,the allegations of sexual assault is an irresponsible statement and it is vehemently denied that any women or a child were physically or otherwise assaulted in the premises of Police Station Bhajanpura in the night of 8th August, 2020 .
Facts of the matter are that on 8.8.2020, the complainant namely Ms Sanno w/o Salim r/o B-403, Gali No. 01, Subhash Vihar, Delhi along with 8-10 other ladies came to the police station Bhajanpura and handed over complaints regarding bursting of crackers, lighting of the lamps and installing of saffron flags at iron gate in Subhash Vihar, Delhi on 05.08.2020 while celebrating foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram Temple, Ayodhya. The complaints were received vide DD No. 116, 119 and 121 and assigned to SI Vedpal for verifying the facts of the complaint. But Sanno w/o Salim sought immediate registration of FIR on her complaint. She started abusing police staff and threatened that she was sent by advocate Mahmood Pracha and said, either police should register FIR at once or she would stage Dharna on the gate of Police Station.
Sanno and others were assured by police officials that necessary action would be taken on their complaints and were advised that due to Covid-19 guidelines, no one should unnecessary stay at public places . After a lot of persuasion, they left the police station.
At about 11:30PM on 8.8.2020, Sanno made a PCR call that she and her daughters were beaten and molested by police officers of Bhajanpura. Delhi Police denies these allegations. These are utterly false and motivated. No such incident had happened in Police Station nor was any injury reported. No manhandling was done with either of the complainant or ladies present in the police station. The woman staff present at the Women help desk has denied any such incident of manhandling by police staff of PS Bhajanpura in whose presence ladies were attended to. The shopkeepers in front of police station have also denied any manhandling of the complainant and other ladies. Besides, the neighbours of the complainant have also denied any sort of instigation on part of any community owing to the Ram Temple foundation ceremony.
The allegations have been levelled with ulterior motives and are totally baseless.
As far as the security and safety of the complainant are concerned, mobile phones of SHO Bhajanpura and beat staff have been shared with her to contact them in case of any emergency. The beat staff regularly visits her place and DD entries are also being made in this regard.
In another incident on 11.08.2020, The media persons of caravan had gone to Subhash Mohalla to cover the alleged incident of 05.08.2020 and 08.08.2020 and also North East Delhi riots. They were taking pictures which led to heated exchange of words between media persons and local people.. Police personnel acted swiftly and brought media persons to police station. Taking pictures without consent may provoke those present and create Law and Order problems including communal problems.
Journalists of carvan and a lady of the locality had given cross complaints which are being enquired into and appropriate legal action will be taken on conclusion of the enquiry.
The police is doing its work in a professional, free and impartial manner. Enquiry or investigation isbeing conducted in right earnest on all the matters received in the police station. Appropriate legal or preventive action is taken on any complaint received in the police station as per law and procedures irrespective of faith or religion of the complainant. To suggest otherwise, is a deliberate attempt to malign Delhi Police’s image and is totally biased and unsubstantiated.
In view of the facts elucidated above ,it is requested that this rejoinder may be taken into consideration and be published with equal prominence for your esteemed readers in right prospective.
(DR. EISH SINGHAL) IPS Public Relations Officer,
Delhi Police, Delhi
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, has released a statement condemning the attack on the journalists and demanding immediate action against the culprits. The CPJ also noted that one of the attackers identified himself as an official from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) has also strongly condemned the assault and stated that it “deplores the breakdown of law and order in the national capital. It is shocking and reprehensible that no FIR has been lodged as yet by Delhi police, according total impunity to those who perpetrated this dastardly attack.” The union has demanded “that an FIR be registered and the culprits booked immediately,” and extended its “solidarity and support to the journalists attacked and affirms its commitment to fight for protecting the right of all journalists, irrespective of their caste, religious identity, community or gender, to report freely, without fear or favour.”
The Press Club of India issued a statement condemning the attack and demanded an FIR and judicial probe by the Delhi government. The PCI has reminded the authorities that the areas of Northeast Delhi the reporters were at, have also witnessed “planned communal violence had occurred in February this year instigated and executed by elements enjoying the patronage of politically powerful elements.”
It added that, “The police on duty eventually took the three journalists to the Bhajanpura police station for their safety but did not prevent the assault on them. Nor did it make any effort to deter the attackers. This amounts to failure of police to protect law abiding citizens from aggressive groups, and can only further encourage criminal and communal elements.”
“This is unprecedented, in 25 years of journalism I have not encountered this level of public depravity,” added Hartosh Singh Bal, the magazine’s political editor, “If mobs can decide on who will report on them and how, if identity becomes the marker of journalistic credibility, if violence is the response to reporting and institutions fail to act by the law, then it is not just the media which becomes unviable, so does constitutional democracy.”