By Debobrat Ghose and Sameer Yasir
New Delhi: “Main akela hi chala tha janib-e-mazil magar; Log saath aate gaye aur karvan banta gaya” (I started alone for my destination, but people joined along the way and it formed a caravan)- these famous lines of noted poet and lyricist Majhrooh Sultanpuri aptly describes the protest rally of the journalists on Tuesday noon in New Delhi.
It all began with less than a hundred journalists from print, electronic and web media—mainstream English to vernacular dailies—taking out a rally from outside Press Club of India in the National Capital. It culminated in a large gathering almost double the number by the time it reached the Supreme Court premises.
Holding placards and raising slogans against Delhi Police for failing to take action against the culprits behind the attack on journalists and students at the court premises, the scribes demanded an immediate arrest of those lawyers, who were involved in the violence on Monday.
Journalist, Azaan Javaid, a tall-built bearded young man, wearing baggy jeans, stood at the entrance of the club holding a placard that read, “Stand up in defence of the Right to report.”
Javaid, who works for DNA newspaper, was attacked by lawyers inside the court premises where he along with other reporters had gone to cover JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s court hearing at the Patiala House Court in New Delhi.
“I thought it was the end of us, and we would soon be killed. There were lawyers looking for JNU students, and when we told them we are from media, they checked our identity cards, then kicked us and abused female reporters. I somehow managed to save myself and a female reporter,” Javaid told Firstpost.
“The worst part was people whom we know in the court (lawyers) just acted as mute spectators and laughed at us. The police was of no help either,” he said.
Ranjit Kumar Jha, Delhi correspondent for a Mumbai-based Hindi daily said, “This JNU drama should end now. Politicisation of the issue should immediately be stopped. This type of activities hasn’t occurred for the first time. Earlier too, many incidents had taken place on campus. Ganga Dhabha used to be the spot where students used to gather to express their views, but of course, without the presence of media. This time it happened near Sabarmati Dhabha in the presence of a news channel. The impact is visible before us. Besides, the Left, the Right affiliated ABVP also has its presence in the campus. In the past, Sandeep Mahapatra became JNUSU president as an ABVP candidate. Now Congress is politicising the issue as their footprint is negligible in the campus. Enough is enough. Now, it should end.”
The journalists demanded immediate arrest of the culprits involved in the attack on students and reporters within the court complex, besides taking action against the police personnel who were mute spectators.
“Media is the fourth pillar of democracy. If journalists, who are a part of that pillar are beaten, their legs are broken, that fourth pillar breaks down. We are the only ones who stand for democracy in this country. If we don’t protest, today when would we? Journalists are beaten inside the premises of a court and they are beaten by the lawyers without any reason. If this is not hooliganism, what is it? Can you call it patriotism?” Sumit Awasthi of IBN7 said.
As the police stopped the crowd from marching towards Supreme Court by erecting barricades, Amit Baruah, an independent Delhi-based journalist said he remembered walking on the same streets in 1986 when defamation bill was brought by Rajiv Gandhi among many other marches protesting the denial of the basic rights of journalists.
“These attackers should be punished. The journalists were doing their job in the court. Delhi Police’s job is to arrest these perpetrators and punish them. That is not happening, which is why we are here,” said Baruah.
Finally after the police allowed entry to the Supreme Court, a group of senior journalists, including three victims of the Monday scuffle, met the registrar of the apex court and submitted a memorandum.
There was a visible anger among journalists against Delhi police Commissioner BS Bassi who sought to hush up the matter by terming the incident as 'minor'.
Later, the journalists also gave a memorandum to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
“Bassi Sahib needs to look into himself. I don’t know why he has said it was minor scuffle. My reporter Amit Panday told me that he received more than 100 slaps. God forbid if Bassi Sahib or a cop would have been slapped. Would they have called it a minor scuffle? asked Awasthi.
Analysing the JNU fiasco, Arun Kumar, retired professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, said, “This episode should come to an end, but it is not possible because it has got converted into a political issue. JNU has both ideologies-extreme Left and extreme Right. We teach students to critically analyse every issue and think about advancement of knowledge. JNU is known for its free and analytical thinking. A handful of students, mostly from outside, raised anti-national slogans, and for this the entire university can’t be branded as an anti-national institution. An orchestrated campaigning is going on to malign it. The students and teachers of the university have to resist this unholy move. Those who raised slogans should be punished under the law, but simultaneously we are not so weak that mere slogans could divide India.”