In two separate incidents, journalists were assaulted by right-wing mobs at the 'Hindu Mahapanchayat' event in North West Delhi's Burari on Sunday, 3 April, afternoon.
In one of the incidents, involving Newslaundry's reporters Shivangi Saxena and Ronak Bhat, an FIR has been filed under Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC.
In the other incident, two journalists were beaten up and The Quint's principal correspondent Meghnad Bose was manhandled by a mob. The police then whisked away five journalists, including the three mentioned above, from the event around 1:30 pm. They were taken to the Mukherjee Nagar police station.
Apart from Bose, the other journalists are Meer Faisal, who works at The Hindustan Gazette, photojournalist Mohd Meherbaan, freelance journalist Arbab Ali, and a fifth journalist, who does not want to be named.
An FIR under IPC sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) have been registered in relation to this incident, as per the police.
"[A] complaint was also received from an independent/freelancer journalist who had also come to Burari Ground for reporting the event of Hindu Mahapanchayat Sabha He had alleged that today on 03//04/2022, at around 1 pm, when he along with other journalists were interviewing one person, then some persons manhandled and assaulted him. Police intervened and ensured their safety."DCP North West Delhi Usha Rangani
The Delhi Police has also registered a case against the organisers of Hindu Mahapanchayat, including Priest of Dasna Devi temple Yati Narsinghanand, and Suresh Chavhanke, Chief Editor of Sudarshan News, for their inflammatory speeches delivered to the assembly.
The Chain of Events
In a Twitter thread, Ali said that he and Faisal had been taking interviews at the Mahapanchayat, when a mob snatched their phones and camera. "When Meer and I told them our name, they called us jihadi," Ali said.
"They deleted the videos in Meer Faisal's camera and my phone. The right-wing mob was minutes away from lynching us. The police came and put us in a police van and barely managed to take us away," he wrote on Twitter.
The journalist, who had gone to cover the event on behalf of Article 14, said that two policemen had come to rescue Faisal and him from the mob, but were unsuccessful. Subsequently, more police officers came and forcefully extracted the two journalists from the crowd, and took them to the police van.
"The policemen were pushing both of us. We had no idea who they were. We thought they were also part of the Hindu mob and would soon attack us. We both were followed by around a mob of 150 right-wingers. They were calling us names and saying that we’ll be beaten," wrote Ali.
Three other journalists, including Bose and an injured Meherbaan were also taken to the police van, after which the former told the police to take them away.
By late afternoon, the journalists were escorted out by the police in a PCR van but were made to return midway to give a statement, said Bose.
"Five journalists, four of them Muslim, one on assignment for Article 14, have been taken by police to the Mukherji Nagar police station in Delhi after a mob at #Hindu #dharamsansad (for which the police had declined permission) discovered their religion, attacked them and deleted videos)," Article 14 said in a tweet.
Newslaundry's Executive Editor Manisha Pande wrote on Twitter, "Our producer Ronak Bhat was assaulted today while covering Hindu Mahapanchayat event at Burari. Our reporter Shivangi was manhandled, she says she was recognised from her last year's report on hate speech at Jantar Mantar & targeted."
On Saturday, 2 April, The Quint reported that the Delhi Police and land owning authority Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had denied permission to Save India Foundation to hold the 'Hindu Mahapanchayat". Despite this, the event was held under heavy police deployment.
Controversial Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand, who organised the Haridwar conclave of 2021, where rabid hate speeches were delivered against the Muslim community, was also in attendance at the venue.
Narsinghanand, the head priest of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi Temple and an accused in the Haridwar hate speech case, reportedly incited the attendees of the Sunday assembly to pick up arms if India gets a Muslim prime minister.
Narsinghanand said that 40 percent Hindus will be killed if India were to get a Muslim PM. “This is the future of Hindus. If you want to change this, be a man (mard bano). What is it to be a man? Someone who is armed,” he was quoted as saying.
What Has the Police Said?
DCP North-West Delhi Usha Rangani said that the police had taken the journalists away from the event in order to provide them with security.
"Some of the reporters, willingly, on their own free will, to evade the crowd that was getting agitated by their presence, sat in a PCR van stationed at the venue and opted to proceed to the police station for security reasons. No one was detained. Due police protection was provided," the DCP North-West Delhi stated in a tweet.
Additional DCP (North West) Krishan Kumar told The Quint that the journalists had not been detained, but had merely been taken to the police station after "a scuffle broke out". He claimed that the journalists had themselves asked the police to be safely escorted outside the premises of the assembly.
Since the journalists did not have a proper camera, but only the phone camera, the mob had questioned if they were really reporters, as per the police. "That is why we intervened," ADCP Kumar said.
"Some of the speakers, including Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, Priest of Dasna Devi Temple and Suresh Chavhanke, Chief Editor of Sudarshan News, uttered words promoting disharmony, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between two communities," DCP North West Delhi Usha Rangnani said.