- NL Sena
‘I have covered so many riots in my career in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and Assam. But I have never had such a problem ever,’ says journalist Radhika Ramaseshan.
On July 22, journalists who covered February's communal violence in Northeast Delhi said the city police had called them to inquire about their whereabouts during the carnage.
Radhika Ramaseshan and Archis Mohan tweeted that they had received phone calls from the Rohini police station.
Mohan reported on the aftermath of the carnage for the Business Standard newspaper. And last week, he got a call from the Rohini police station, and an officer questioned him about his presence in Northeast Delhi on February 27. “Before he came to ask me about my profession, he asked me where I lived, how long I had lived at my current residence, how long have I held on to my phone number,” Mohan told Newslaundry.
It seemed to Mohan that the officer did not have any idea about who he was calling, despite claiming at one point that he knew the janam kundli, or birth chart, of the journalist. “I don’t think it was planned, probably he was cold calling all numbers he obtained,” said Mohan, who has covered crime as a journalist. “This can happen in cold cases.”
Ramaneshan, who writes for the Business Standard and the Mumbai Mirror, covered the violence in Karawal Nagar, Shiv Vihar and Yamuna Vihar, among other hotspots. The police’s line of inquiry did not differ in her case, but she took the call a lot more seriously.
“This is surveillance of the bad kind. I have covered so many riots in my career in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and Assam,” she said. “But I have never had such a problem ever.”
After talking to the official, Ramaneshan got a call from the inspector of the police station who was “mildly apologetic”. “He said they didn’t know I was a journalist,” she said.
Oddly, both journalists say they were nudged to somehow help the police in its investigation into the carnage, which they declined.
Besides Mohan and Ramanesan, no other journalist who covered the communal violence has come forward about receiving calls from the Delhi police.
Newslaundry reached out to Pramod Kumar Mishra, deputy commissioner of police, Rohini, for comment. He said he did not know about any calls being made to journalists from police stations in Rohini. “There are two police stations here, North Rohini and South Rohini. The riots that happened in the Northeast District towards the end of February have nothing to do with Rohini. There is no riot-related inquiry or investigation going on here. Someone might be trying to mislead,” Mishra said, adding that he could look into the matter if we shared the numbers that had received the calls with him, else he would rather not comment.
On Twitter, Ramaneshan asked why the police were tracing phone numbers five months after the violence and how they obtained the numbers.
After her tweets, other journalists took to Twitter to express anger over the police inquiries, raising concerns over privacy and targeted harassment.
Chargesheets filed by the police show that the Special Investigative Teams looking into the carnage have seized cellphones and used call detail records to zero in on potential culprits. But as Newslaundry has , the police’s investigations have been marred by allegations of fabrication and sloppiness.
According to the Delhi police, at least 52 civilians were killed in the communal violence, of them Muslims.
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