Reacting to the photo of journalists and protesters being stripped to underwear in police station in Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the government of 'new India' is afraid of the truth.
In his post on Twitter, Rahul Gandhi said, "The fourth pillar of democracy was ripped off in the lockup! Either sit in the lap of the government and sing their praises, or go to jail. The government of 'New India' is afraid of the truth."
In the photo going viral, eight men are seen standing against the wall, half-naked in their undergarments.
The incident happened on 2 April in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh.
Local journalist and YouTuber Kanishk Tiwari, who has been identified in the photo, told The Quint that he had gone to cover the arrest of theatre artist Neeraj Kunder who was arrested for allegedly making indecent remarks about BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla and his son Guru Dutt using a fake ID.
"We had gone to the Kotwali police station to enquire about his arrest. But we were arrested by the police and kept in lock-up for almost 18 hours. We were beaten, abused, and were asked to remove our clothes."Kanishk Tiwari, MP-based Journalist
Neeraj Kunder is the director of Indravati Natya Samiti in Sidhi district, and has reportedly been working to saving the art of Vindhyas.
As per reports, Kunder had created a fake Facebook ID in the name of Anurag Mishra. Upon his arrest, many people, including Kunder's parents and Tiwari, had gone to the police station.
Another theatre artist Narendra Bahadur Singh, who had gone to the police station in support of Neeraj Kunder, alleged that they were all beaten up and asked to strip.
"We had just gone to give the memorandum, but the police decided to assault us. Journalist Kanishk Tiwari was also beaten up. He has exposed scams by the local police as well MLA Kedarnath Shukla, and he too faced their ire."Narendra Bahadur Singh
The Police station in-charge of Sidhi and a sub-inspector have been suspended and attached to the Police Lines in connection with the incident. The matter is to be investigated by the Additional Superintendent of Police, Inspector General of Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, said.
Not a Journalist, Say Police
Talking to The Quint, Mukesh Kumar Shrivastava, Superintendent of Police, Sidhi district, said there were no journalists but miscreants who were preventively detained, and later arrested.
"The incident happened on 2 April, one Mr Kanishk Tiwari along with some other people had gone to the Kotwali police station and were creating ruckus over the arrest of one theatre artist Neeraj Kunder. Kanishk and others were kept in preventive detention and were later arrested under IPC Section 151. They were released on bail on 3 April."Mukesh Kumar Shrivastava, Sidhi SP
When asked about the viral photo showing Kanishk and others half-naked, SP Shrivastava said, "It's a normal procedure to ensure that none of them could attempt anything unwanted, such as killing themselves. The photo has come to my attention – and I have ordered enquiry into the matter. Whosoever clicked and distributed the photo will soon be found and legal action will be taken against those involved."
However, refuting the police's version. Kanishk Tiwari told The Quint that he had gone to cover the developments in the arrest of Neeraj Kunder. He alleged that he was assaulted and humiliated because of his previous coverage against the local politicians and police in the district.
"I am a journalist. I have been asking tough questions about politicians, especially MLA Kedarnath Shukla and the police department here. My YouTube channel mpsandeshnews24 has over 170K subscribers. I am being targeted for my critical journalism."Kanishk Tiwari
Among those arrested were theatre artists and supporters of Kunder. All of them were released on 3 April.
‘Shocked and Outraged’: Editors Guild of India
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) said in a statement on Friday, 8 April, that it was "shocked and outraged" by the manner in which police arrested, stripped, and humiliated Kanishk Tewari, as well as the incident in Odisha's Balasore district where the police chained a journalist's leg to a hospital bed after an alleged case of assault.
The statement said,
"The inhumane manner in which journalists, stringers, and district reporters are often treated by the police, in an effort to suppress any independent reporting is a matter of corruption by the police and various irregularities in their affairs."
The Guild has urged the Home ministry to act immediately and take strict actions.
"The Editors Guild of India urges the Union Home Ministry to take immediate cognisance of police excesses against journalists and civil society members, and issue stern directions to all levels of law enforcement agencies to respect democratic values and freedom of press. At the same time strict action needs to be taken against those who misuse state power," the statement underlined.