Tu Hai Kaun, Tu Patrakar Nahin Gaddar Hai (Who are you? You are not a journalist but a traitor)... These were the words of the goons in black coats before they assaulted me at Patiala House court today.
JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was to be produced in court and like other journalists, I was there to cover the developments. I reached the court around noon and everything was normal. Security was tightened following the Supreme Court’s instruction to the police in the morning to ensure safety for Kumar. The policemen deployed there were frisking and checking everyone before allowing them entry into the court.
I was talking to a few journalist friends outside gate number two of the court when we heard slogans being raised from inside the court. We saw a group of 40-50 lawyers marching outside, waving the national flag. They raised slogans like 'Gaddaron, Bharat Chhodo' (Traitor, Leave India) and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' (Long Live, Mother India).
I went to one of the lawyers of the group and asked who these traitors were. The man told me they were journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Bhupendra Chowbey, etc. I asked his name but he refused to be identified. The group marched outside for a few metres and then returned to the court, raising the same slogans. At gate number two, they were confronted by a smaller group of lawyers who asked them not to raise such slogans and let the law take its course. When the former refused to budge, the second group also began raising slogans like "Tanashahi nahin chalegi' (dictatorship won't prevail) and 'Kanhaiya tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain' (Kanhaiya you continue with your struggle, we are with you).
As a scuffle broke out between the two protesting groups, I moved a few steps into the court campus and stood in the row where policemen stood in large numbers to the left, on the other side of the gate. Since I was asked to send live updates from the spot, I was typing into my phone. Suddenly, the 'nationalist' group of lawyers turned violent and pulled at one of the most outspoken lawyers of the other group. They began to beat, punch and kick him mercilessly. He lost his balance and fell to the ground close to the gate. There is a wooden cabin, perhaps for security personnel here. He was lying in the narrow space between the cabin and the boundary wall of the court campus as he was being kicked by the lawyers.
I went near where he was being assaulted and clicked a photo. Someone from the crowd spotted me and he snatched my cell phone and quickly deleted the photograph. I turned to him and asked for the mobile phone. Meanwhile, the attention of the entire mob turned to me. They started shouting, "Yeh kaun hai, ise pakdo" (Who is he? Catch hold of him). I told him that I am a journalist and showed them my ID card. When they learned that I was from Network 18, they began to shout: "Ise maro, yeh Rajdeep Sardesai ke channel me kaam karta hai" (Beat him. He works with Rajdeep Sardesai's channel).
I tried to reason with them, making it clear that Sardesai is no longer associated with the group, but to no avail. "Barkha, Rajdeep aur Bhupendra jaise rashtra virodhi log tere jaise patrakar ke icon hote hain" (Traitors like Barkha, Rajdeep and Bhupendra are icons for journalists like you), one of them said.
Meanwhile, some of them grabbed my right hand, held it tightly and pulled me deep inside the campus. I resisted but soon others joined them and began to beat me up. A few lawyers intervened and escorted me to the gate. The policemen were initially reluctant to open the gate to let me out. Journalists who stood on the other side of the gate began to shout in my defence, asking the policemen to get me out. That was when the gate was opened and I came out. I recognised one of the attackers (advocate Vikram Singh Chauhan) who first pulled at me [Editor's note: Chauhan is believed to have led the attack against journalists at Patiala House on Monday].
There was heavy police presence inside the court premises when the skirmish took place but nobody acted or offered to help me despite my pleas.
I suffered minor injuries to my face.