The duo was shooting Jamia students criticising Erdoğan’s honorary doctorate degree on Facebook Live

By Usha Rani Das

Journalists are being targeted just for doing their job, and even by law enforcers. Two reporters from news website, The Quint, were assaulted this week by none other than the Delhi Police while shooting student and alumni reactions to the decision of Jamia Millia Islamia conferring honorary doctorate on Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Meghnad Bose and his friend and colleague Aaqib Raza Khan were broadcasting a Facebook Live video outside the university campus in Delhi when the police assaulted them. Significantly enough, most of the students interviewed were not in favour of the award, arguing that Erdoğan is a dictator and his policies repressive.

Around 18 minutes into the shoot taking place on May 1 evening, police started pushing the reporters, asking them to move from one side of the gate to another for no good reason. They then slapped the young men several times and forcibly removed them from the spot, leading to the abandoning of the shoot. Bose said that police and the Jamia guards knew that they were live at that time. Incidentally, bits of the assault got broadcasted live.

Bose told Views On News: “Some cops began pushing us towards the gate, asking us to continue inside the campus. But the Jamia guards didn’t allow us to enter the premises and, in turn, pushed us outside the gate. As I was telling Aaqib to stop the shoot, police officer Rajbir Singh beckoned me to come closer. I asked him to wait for a second and turned towards Aaqib. Suddenly, Singh advanced towards me and slapped me hard on the face. Then three policemen took hold of me and shoved me inside the campus gate. They said they were doing crowd control.” Khan, too, was assaulted.

Then three policemen pulled Bose towards a police vehicle stationed inside the campus. The situation was seemingly under control with both journalists inside the gates. “It was at this time that Rajbir Singh of the Delhi Police came up from behind and, despite the situation being completely under control, proceeded to slap me several times,” he said. He added that this behaviour of Singh “cannot be justified under any circumstances”.

The young men were confined inside the police vehicle for half-an-hour. Khan’s personal phone and the office phone on which they were shooting had both been snatched by the policemen. Presently, the two were taken to the police chowki inside the campus and then to the police station at Jamia Nagar. At both places, police tried to play down the incident. “At Jamia Nagar police station, inspector Suhaib Ahmad told us, ’Look upon this as a father beating a son. This is a good experience. No personal grudges here, so move on.’” After a few minutes at the PS, they were allowed to go. No good reason was given to them for their misbehaviour.

Hours after the incident, however, the Delhi Police PRO issued the following statement: “I have seen the Facebook video and confirmed from DCP, SE, that there was deployment because of movement of the Turkish President. I have told him about the incident and complaint of Sh. Meghnad. He has assured me that he will look into the matter. And he will also speak to him through his colleagues in Quint.”

DCP, Southeast, Romil Baaniya later called up Bose and apologised. But by then the incident had gone viral on social media and several journalists from around the country expressed solidarity with the two reporters.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement: “Indian authorities should identify and discipline New Delhi police officers who assaulted journalist Meghnad Bose yesterday… The authorities should swiftly discipline the police officers responsible for assaulting Meghnad Bose simply for doing his job.” CPJ Asia program director Steven Butler said from Washington DC that the “police should train officers to protect the legal activities of journalists, and not to harass them”. The Delhi Union of Journalists also condemned the incident.

But Bose wants justice not only for the journalist, but for the citizen as well. He told VON: “Not only for reporters, if an average citizen is attacked like this, it is wrong and he should get justice.” His view is indisputable.