‘Met Jailed Farmers, Wrote Notes on Leg’: Journalist Mandeep Punia
Journalist Mandeep Punia recalled his time in Tihar jail and how the Delhi Police treated him during his arrest.
“When I walked into Tihar jail, most of the inmates knew my name and that I was wrongly imprisoned. I was put in the same ward where they had kept the farmers whom they had arrested from different protest sites.”
Journalist Mandeep Punia, who was arrested from the Singhu Border while reporting on the farmers’ protest on 30 January, recalled his interactions with several jailed farmers in Tihar jail, how the police allegedly beat him up and taunted him before the arrest, and how he was produced in court without his lawyer, in a gross violation of law.
Punia was arrested on charges of causing assault, injury and obstruction to security forces.
‘Police Knew My Name When They Were Beating Me’
Punia said, “I was reporting on how policemen were abusing and stopping some of the migrant workers who wanted to enter Delhi. There was another reporter by the name of Dharmender who was also shooting the same video. The police took him aside when I intervened. When the police saw me, one of them shouted, “Yeh raha Mandeep Punia, isko pakdo.”
He added that after police took him to one of the tents at the protest, they thrashed him for “straight 10 minutes” and he had bruises on his legs. “They were taking my name when they beat me up.”
Punia says it all started from one day earlier when he had done a Facebook Live exposing some BJP members dressed as “locals” who pelted stones at the farmers.
“They took me to some old police station near Wazirabad, kept me waiting, switched on the fan in this cold and made me wait under it. They kept discussing among each other, ‘let’s book him under this case’, ‘let’s book him under that case,’ ‘Let’s leave him in a red light area, then arrest him from there’.”Mandeep Punia
‘Police Asked Doctor to Not Show Too Many Wounds in Report’
Punia alleges that the police had asked the medical officer at the Ambedkar Hospital to not reflect “too many wounds” in his report.
“The police told the medical officer that he is a minor case and they shouldn’t show too many wounds in my report. I am thankful to the doctor who refused to listen to the police and noted down every single wound of mine.”
‘Police Produced Me in Court Without My Lawyer’
In denial of his constitutional right to have legal assistance, Punia was produced in sessions court on 31 January in the absence of his lawyer. He was then sent to a 14-day judicial custody.
“Police had told my lawyer they will present me in court at 2 pm but they slyly produced me at 1 pm.”
Punia was granted bail by the court on 2 February which noted, “As there was no need to keep Punia in custody, and there were no reasons to deny him bail, the settled legal principle of "bail is a rule and jail is an exception" would apply in this case. As a result, the court ordered Punia's release on furnishing a bail bond of Rs 25,000.”
The Quint has reached out to the Delhi Police for a response. This story will be updated as and when they respond.
‘Met Farmers in Tihar, Realised They Were Bigger Victims of Regime’
Recalling his interactions with one of the arrested farmers in his cell in Tihar, Punia says, “When I started talking to one of the farmers in my cell, Jasminder Singh, he showed me his wound. I felt they were bigger victims of the regime than I was. Most of these farmers came from poor and vulnerable backgrounds, they didn’t even know why they had been arrested. Jasminder Singh had gone to the market when he was picked up. So, I borrowed a pen from one of the policemen and started making notes.”
‘Respond to Repression With a Smile and a Pen’
Punia says he wants other local journalists like Siddique Kappan, who was jailed while he was on his way to Hathras to report on the alleged gang rape and death of a Dalit girl, to be freed.
“The State wants to scare you. One should respond to them with a smile and by using ones pen to write more reports. I will go to Singhu again and go back to doing what I am supposed to do – journalism.”Mandeep Punia
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