Other States

When media persons were ruthlessly chased away

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It was all fine till Friday. Despite tensions at Bishara, media persons did not face hostility from the local people. But Saturday was a different day.

For the first time, I felt that I encountered the religious polarisation and simmering tension that we write about. Showing hatred and anger, women hurled stones at us. Around 8.30 a.m., as we were waiting in the village for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was supposed to arrive to meet the family of Mohammed Akhlaque Saifi, who was lynched over rumours of cow slaughter.

But then suddenly we saw people, mostly women, coming towards us. From what we could make out, they had stones in their hands. I ran and so did several others. For some time, I could not understand what was happening. After all it is not every day that journalists face protests in a metropolis like Delhi.

But then we realised the danger. We were being chased out. There was no time to look for our vehicles. We got inside any car we managed to find. Later, I found out that a woman journalist from a national daily was hit by a stone.

More police were brought in. In the afternoon, we entered the village again when Mr. Kejriwal finally managed to find his way in.

A woman, whose language I could never understand otherwise, asked me, “Why are you people only showing what happened to …?” She used a derogatory term for a community. Well, this was not the first time somebody used the term while talking to me, but the intensity with which the question was asked surprised me.

This happened when a fellow journalist and I were waiting at the entrance of the lane leading to Akhlaque’s house. Just a few metres away, a mob of over 200 women were brought under control by women police personnel. Then another battery of women managed to come to the entrance of the lane and the question was posed to me. I told the woman, “See, we are not journalists. We are with Kejriwalji.”

But then I asked her what the media was not showing. “Our men are being picked up wrongly, but media is not showing that,” she said. “If you say you are not media person, why are you taking pictures,” she shot back a question as I was tweeting.

It was then we decided to leave. The mob of women suddenly became more hostile.

During the entire episode, especially in the afternoon, there was sufficient police force on the ground. But they remained a mute spectator. I wonder if that was deliberate. It was while we were almost leaving that some youngsters and women came and started throwing stones and broke the windscreen of a car belonging to a news channel.

“You media people. You guys are behind all this. You better leave now,” said one of them while showing the stones. It was during the day that we were told by a very senior police officer how the dominant community held two meetings last night to discuss how to deal with the media. With such hostility on display, I wonder how any Muslim family, let alone that of Akhlaque, stay in the village.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 8:21:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/when-media-persons-were-ruthlessly-chased-away/article7720983.ece

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