Sabarimala protests: women journalists attacked at Nilackal

BJP leader Shoba Surendran reaches the Nilackal base camp on October 17, 2018.   | Photo Credit: Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Media personnel, mostly women reporters from national news channels, on Wednesday came under violent attacks from protesters belonging to the sangh parivar and fringe groups at Nilackal, the hub of protests against the entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala shrine of Lord Ayyappa. Most of the attacks began in the form of "vehicle checks" by protesters to ensure that young women are not inside.

The series of attacks began close to noon, with a mob surrounding a car in which the Republic TV channel crew was travelling. It banged on the vehicle, chanting Ayyappa slogans. The channel's reporter, Pooja Prasanna, was pushed and shoved and the car's windshield was damaged.

Shortly after, India Today reporter Mausami Singh was pulled out of a KSRTC bus in which she was travelling and attacked. She was slapped by protesters. She was escorted by police personnel to a police van near the gateway to the Nilackal Mahadeva temple.

A large group, which had gathered to listen to Hindu Aikya Vedi Sasikala speaking, soon surrounded the police van and hurled stones at the bus. A group of protesters hung on to the van's window and filmed her cowering inside, as the crowd below chanted, "Avalkkathu venam [she deserves it], Aiyyappa....Iniyum kittum [will get it again], Aiyyappa". She was taken to the government dispensary nearby.

The News Minute's reporter, Saritha Balan, who was travelling in a KSRTC bus, also came under attack. A mob gathered around the bus and pulled her out. Though police personnel formed a cordon around her, she was kicked on her spine, while a woman protester hurled a bottle at her. The protesters also used abusive slogans against her, laced with Aiyyappa chants. She was taken to the Nilackal police station, where she had to wait a long time as a mob had gathered outside.

A vehicle in which CNN News 18 crew, including reporter Radhika Ramaswamy were travelling in, also came under attack.

Reporter TV's vehicle was attacked by a mob carrying sticks, later in the afternoon. The channel's reporter, Rajeesh, sustained injuries. Their equipment was also damaged.

Protesters' tent demolished by police

The anger against the media was palpable from the morning at Nilackal, where the protesters' tent was demolished by the police early in the morning. Many of them refused to talk to the media personnel, blaming them for "misrepresenting" and "under-reporting". They were angry at the visual media for showing visuals of them stopping buses, carrying out checks and pulling women out on Tuesday.

The Network of Women in Media India (NWMI) condemned the attacks and urged support from the government and the civil society in Kerala to make sure that the media is able to cover this controversial issue without fear and that journalists are not harmed in the process of doing their jobs.

Journalists also took out a protest march to the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram condemning the attacks on media and demanding action against the attackers.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 5:33:05 AM |

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