Delhi Journos, Where Was the Outrage When Assam Police Beat Me Up?
(As told to Tridip K Mandal by Emmy Ci Lawbei, a Mizoram-based journalist.)
On 10 March this year, seven journalists from Mizoram were brutally assaulted by the Assam Police while covering the Assam-Mizoram border dispute at Zophai. I was one of them. Catherine C Sangi, a female reporter, was assaulted too. We were beaten black and blue despite showing our press credentials. The photos tell the story.
Mizo Journalist vs Delhi Journalist
We sustained injuries on our bodies and souls. We are still recovering. The Assamese authorities blatantly denied the assault and stated they used ‘minimum force’ to disperse students and journalists. Hailakandi District Commissioner Adil Khan said, “We exercise maximum restraint and used minimum force to disperse the students.”
I am shocked Assam Police thinks firing shots and lathi-charging against unarmed students is considered “minimum force”. The cops responsible for beating me and fellow journalists are yet to be punished.
Now compare this to what happened in Delhi twelve days later. Delhi Police assaulted journalists who were covering the JNU student protest. Among them were two female journalists, JUST LIKE US. But what disturbs me is how the mainstream media and journalists in mainland India reacted to both these incidents.
Similar Incident, Different Coverage, Selective Outrage
Both incidents involved unarmed students and journalists. Tune into any national media today and you will see journalists from different organisations coming together, voicing their discontent over the incident on their prime time slot, debating on the safety of journalists and anchors screaming at the top of their lungs condemning the brutal action of Delhi Police. The whole media fraternity came together in support of Delhi-based journalists. They staged a protest in front of Delhi Police headquarters and took out a protest march which almost went to the parliament.
I feel for those journalists and I stand in solidarity with them. But WHAT ABOUT US, WE ARE JOURNALISTS TOO.
Here I am, sitting in the remotest corner of the country, asking my fellow journalists across the country where was all the anger and support when the same incident happened to us? Where was your demand for justice? Where was your voice of support? Did you even hear our stories? Do we not matter because we live a thousand miles away from Delhi? Do we have to die first to get your attention? When you showed overwhelming support to journalists from Delhi, Mumbai and other metropolitan cities, why hesitate to do it for journalists from northeast India?
A Lonely Battle for Justice
Geographical boundaries should not divide us. There is already a feeling of alienation for the Northeast people and today I feel isolated and alienated all over again. This is not me seeking attention for my personal benefits but for all the journalists who work in the remotest corner of the country.
We are fighting a lonely battle for justice. Mizoram Journalists Association (MJA) on its part has held a sit in demonstration and sent letters with video evidence to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Press Council of India, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the National Human Rights Commission, Kiren Rijiju and Mizoram MPs in Delhi. The NHRC has already taken initiative to find the truth and is seeking an explanation from the DGPs of both Mizoram and Assam. There has been no other positive outcome.
Meanwhile in the Delhi journalist assault case, the FIR has been registered under Section 354A (Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment) of the IPC and the Station House Officer (Delhi Cantt.) has been sent to district lines pending inquiry. I believe such swift action was taken only because of the relentless coverage and protests by the journalist fraternity.
Even our call for justice would have been heard by the concerned authorities if you rallied as much as you did for the journalists in Delhi. Hear us, tell our stories and treat us like your brothers and sisters and your colleagues, for we all fight for the same thing, FREEDOM of the PRESS!! We want the same justice as the Delhi journalists.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the narrator’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)