Media professionals came out in large numbers to express outrage at the fact that Delhi police had failed to protect their colleagues from the attacks in the court room
New Delhi: More than 200 journalists held a protest march on Tuesday calling for action a day after a mob of men calling themselves lawyers assaulted media persons, students, teachers and bystanders on the premises of Patiala House district court in Delhi.
No one has been arrested for the assault, which continued despite the presence of police, before the start of hearing in a sedition case against Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar.
One journalist was admitted to hospital with injuries and was discharged on Tuesday morning.
Media professionals across all formats, especially print and television, came out in large numbers to express outrage at the fact that Delhi police had failed to protect their colleagues from the attacks in the court room.
“Police needs to act against those who attack journalists and students. The judge should have intervened yesterday (Monday). There was a complete breakdown of law and order at the Patiala House yesterday," said the co-founder of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan.
On Monday, men who identified themselves as lawyers ordered journalists to leave the courtroom and chased teachers and others they believed to be supporters of JNUSU. Outside the court room, they physically assaulted journalists and raised slogans against “anti-national elements".
“Either you make them leave or we will," an unidentified lawyer was seen warning police personnel present in the court complex. Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party legislator O.P. Sharma was shown by television channels beating up a Communist Party of India activist.
News anchor Barkha Dutt of New Delhi Television (NDTV) said: “I think we are all here to make a statement that journalists will not be intimidated, we have the right to report without intimidation, without fear, without being bullied. The fact that this happened inside a courtroom, the fact that the perpetrators were men who represented the law, the fact that the police did nothing, the fact that these perpetrators are on camera—easily identifiable—and no action is being taken against them this is truly shocking. This is the time for the media to raise its voice as one."
On Tuesday, a handful of lawyers marched alongside journalists to express their solidarity. Kabir Dixit, a Supreme Court lawyer, said: “I’m here to support the right of the journalists to report fearlessly. I’m here to show that journalists and advocates are two watchdogs of the country. If these two professions cannot work freely and fearlessly, then the rule of law in this country has no future."
The protest march was stopped by the police a kilometer from the Supreme Court with only a small delegation allowed to submit a petition at the registrar’s office in the apex court. Amid slogans like “Delhi police down down" and “Stand up in defence of the right to report", the media contingent filed a resolution to the Chief Justice of India calling for “appropriate action against the advocates involved in the assault" and to direct the Delhi police to ensure protection of journalists and other media persons.
A separate delegation of journalists met home minister Rajnath Singh demanding his intervention in ensuring “accountability of the Delhi police, who watched silently as the assault happened".
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a plea seeking court directions to ensure that the Patiala House court premises are made safe, accessible and non-violent so that Kanhaiya Kumar’s case can be heard. The petition, filed by a JNU alumnus, N.D. Jayaprakash,seeks to ensure that there is no further threat to Kumar and others attending the hearing, including the students, teachers and reporters.
The Delhi high court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking the transfer of the Kanhaiya Kumar case from Delhi Police to the National Investigation Agency. The judge termed the plea filed by a lawyer as “premature".
Kumar’s arrest and Monday’s assault have drawn criticism from not only state and national politicians but also international academics. More than 400 academicians from top international varsities, including Columbia, Yale, Harvard and Cambridge, came out in support of JNU students. A statement signed by them said,“As teachers, students, and scholars across the world, we are watching with extreme concern the situation unfolding at JNU and refuse to remain silent as our colleagues (students, staff, and faculty) resist the illegal detention and autocratic suspension of students."
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi condemned the attack in the Patiala House court complex saying, “The way journalists were beaten up in the court is very wrong and we condemn it."
“They (the government) are suppressing the voice of students in Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow. We’ll not accept this, we will fight this." He accused the government of installing vice-chancellors with sympathies with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor, “in every university and college". Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concern over the recent events in Delhi—the JNU sedition row and the attacks on media in Patiala House—saying, “If shameful incidents take place inside court premises then where will the citizen be safe?"
PTI and Mint’s Apurva Vishwanath contributed to this story.
Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.
Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint.
our App Now!!