Kapil Kajal | Aug 12, 2020 | 6 min read
Police and mob attack scribes trying to cover mob violence in east Bengaluru
After riots broke out in east Bengaluru on Tuesday (August 11), several journalists allege that they were attacked when they went to cover it. Five journalists from different national and regional media outlets were attacked by the police and mob in separate incidents.
At about 8:30 pm, a mob had gathered around Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy’s residence after his nephew had allegedly shared a derogatory post on Prophet Muhammad. The police were quick to the spot and were able to contain the rioters by 1 am on Wednesday. Three people were killed and more than 100 individuals were arrested. Around 60 police personnel sustained injuries and over 250 vehicles were vandalised. A curfew has been imposed within Banaswadi police sub-division.
Incidentally, journalists were attacked, both by the mob and the police. Nolan Pinto, a special correspondent with India Today, told Newslaundry, “I didn’t go initially, I went when the police were pushing the mob around 1:30 am in DJ Halli police station limits. I walked there and took permission from the police as well. I saw five to six jeeps overturned in the area while the firefighters were trying to douse the flames on a police van.”
“When I was there, I could continuously hear police firing in the air. I am not sure if the police personnel were firing bullets or lobbing tear gas shells, but the sound was repetitive,” he added.
When he was doing a quick scan of the surroundings, a policeman came, he mentioned. “The police didn’t realise that journalists were standing over there. Then, I don’t know what happened, but suddenly they said we have to leave from the spot. Then we protested, and I said I am from India Today/ Aaj Tak group. When they persisted, we gave in. So while we were going, one policeman who was drunk, clearly high, and on the bike, used a pole to hit us. He first hit Prajwal Bhat (a journalist with The News Minute) on his back and then he hit me on my right thigh. However, he didn’t even stop there, and he tried to hit again on head and neck and he hit me on my head. I didn’t know it was bleeding at that moment, then we realised that if we don’t run, he will keep hitting us. So we ran and it was only when we were running I touched my head, I got to know that I was bleeding from my head. Yashir Mushtaq, who is a reporter of News Nation, lives nearby and I went to his house where he gave me first aid,” he narrated.
When Newslaundry contacted Nolan, he was heading to the hospital, he said, “Last night I applied an ice pack, but it’s still troubling so I am heading towards the hospital now.”
(Picture of Nolan’s Injury can be taken from his tweet- https://twitter.com/nolanentreeo/status/1293280032719171584)
Fury of the mob
Not only the police, but the mob also attacked the journalists. Ravi Kumar PS, chief of the crime bureau of a regional Kannada TV news channel Suvarna TV, told Newslaundry, “I got to know from my source that there is a mob of around 2,000 people gathered near the MLA Murthy’s house. I told our cameraman Rudresh BV and reporter Pradeep KM to cover the incident. However, by the time they reached there, the mob had turned violent and they beat our reporter and cameraman. Pradeep got four stitches on his head. Because Pradeep could not continue, I went to report the incident, but as soon as I reached there, a mob surrounded my car. I came out of the car and they started beating me. At least 15 people were beating me. They destroyed our equipment as well. Our camera is completely broken.”
Pradeep KM, the reporter with Suvarna TV, told Newslaundry, “I was reporting and suddenly a mob attacked me. I sustained a head injury but now I am doing fine.” Pradeep couldn’t talk much about the incident as he had sustained multiple head injuries. He is currently recovering at his home.
Violence not the solution: Journo
TNM reporter Prajwal told Newslaundry, “I reached DJ Halli around 11 at night. When I reached, the mob had already shifted to KG Halli. So at DJ Halli, where I was reporting from, there was an overturned police vehicle and a burnt police vehicle. DJ Halli is an extremely narrow area, so we (India Today’s Pinto) walked on the main road and went to the police station on the left-hand side. Outside the police station, overturned vehicles were there and a large number of people had gathered and were shouting. We shot two piece-to-camera (PTC). At that point in time, things had become hostile, we could even hear firing. Then the police got agitated and when we were shooting the PTC, they began shutting us down and that is when Nolan and I got hit even though we had all the identifications and were carrying everything. Nolan got a hit on the head, while I got a hit on the back.”
“I have no comments on how the police handled the situation because it was a tough situation for the police to handle but what the police shouldn’t have done is basically attack a reporter when he is carrying the IDs and is willing to cooperate with the police. Police have no justification for launching an attack, they should have simply told the reporters to leave from the place if they are not comfortable with them there and that could have been the end of that,” he added.
Prajwal mentioned, “The police should be doing their job but they should not turn hostile towards the journalists because journalists are not the real target, the real target is the agitating people who are calling for mob violence. I just hope the police take corrective action against this and penalise the official who attacked us.”
“Violence is not the solution for any situation, neither by the mob nor by the police,” he commented.
Addressing the media, Shivajinagar MLA Rizwan Arshad said, “The person (MLA Murthy’s nephew) had deliberately put a social media post, which was derogatory post against Prophet Muhammad. The post was done intentionally to create unrest among the people and a lot of people gathered there. I got a call from the DCP (North) to go to the location and to try to control the situation, and I went there. The person who passed the remarks has been arrested and will be put on trial. He must be given serious punishment not only because of his remarks but also because he tried to create enmity between the communities.”
“I unequivocally condemn the attack on the media, because the media is the pillar of democracy which we all have to respect. The police can’t take any action, any highhandedness against the media. I will talk to the police authority regarding this attack against journalists,” he added.
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