At least five journalists were attacked during the riots that broke out in east Bangalore Tuesday evening. The attackers were from among the rioters as well as the police.
At around 8.30 pm, a mob gathered outside Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy’s residence in Banaswadi area, protesting against his nephew, P Naveen, for sharing an allegedly derogatory Facebook post about Prophet Muhammad. The mob was fired on by the police after it allegedly became violent, leading to the killing of three suspected rioters and the arrest of over a hundred. The rioters were eventually dispersed after 1 am but not before they had injured 60 police personnel and damaged over 250 vehicles, according to the police. Naveen has since been arrested as well.
The aftermath of the violence in Bangalore on Tuesday night.
In the confrontation between the police and the rioters, journalists on the scene became easy targets.
Nolan Pinto, special correspondent with India Today, was one of them. “I didn’t go there initially,” he told 101Reporters. “I went at around 1.30 am, when the police were pushing the mob into the DJ Halli police station limits. I walked there after taking permission from the police. I saw five-six jeeps overturned, and firefighters trying to douse the flames on a police van. While I was there, I could continuously hear the police firing in the air. I’m not sure if they were firing bullets or lobbing teargas shells, but the sound was repetitive.”
Nolan, along with other journalists, was recording what was unfolding when a policeman approached, he recalled. “I don’t know what happened but the police suddenly said we had to leave. We protested. I said I was from the India Today/Aaj Tak group. When they persisted, we gave in,” he added. “While we were going back, one policeman who was drunk, clearly high, and on a bike, used a pole to hit us. He first hit Prajwal Bhat of the News Minute on his back and then he hit me on my right thigh. He hit me again, on my head. I started bleeding but I didn’t realise it then. We realised that if we didn’t run, he would keep hitting us. So, we ran. It was only while we were running that I touched my head and realised I was bleeding. Yashir Mushtaq, who is a reporter for News Nation, lives nearby and I went to his house where he gave me first aid.”
When 101Reporters called Nolan, he was headed to hospital. “Last night, I applied an ice pack, but my head is still throbbing. So, I am going to the hospital now.”
Prajwal, of the News Minute, said, “I reached DJ Halli at around 11 in the night. Later, Nolan and I walked to the police station. There, we saw overturned vehicles and a crowd of people shouting. We recorded two pieces to camera. By then things had become hostile. We could hear firing. Then, the police got agitated, and as we were shooting PTC they began shutting us down. That’s when Nolan and I got hit even though we had all the identifications. Nolan was hit on his head, I got hit on my back.”
He added, “I have no words to describe how the police handled the situation. It was a tough situation for the police to handle, but what they shouldn’t have done is attack a reporter who was carrying the ID and was willing to cooperate. The police had no justification for launching the attack. They should simply have told the reporters to leave if they were not comfortable with them there and that could have been the end of that.”
Prajwal said they hoped the police would take “corrective action” and “penalise the official who attacked us”. “Violence is not the solution for any situation, neither by the mob nor by the police.”
The scene of the mob violence near DJ Halli Police Station the day after the riots.
Ravi Kumar PS, chief of the crime bureau at the Kannada news channel Suvarna TV, and his colleagues were assaulted by the rioters. “I came to know that there was a mob of around 2,000 people gathered near MLA Murthy’s house. I told our reporter Pradeep KM and cameraman Rudresh BV to cover the incident. However, by the time they got there, the mob had turned violent and they beat our reporter and cameraman,” he told 101Reporters. “Pradeep received 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 got out and they started beating me. There were at least 15 men beating me. They also destroyed our equipment. Our camera is completely broken.”
Pradeep said, “I was there reporting when a mob suddenly attacked me. I sustained a head injury but I am doing fine now.”
He couldn’t talk at length about the incident because the doctors had advised him to rest. He is recovering at home.
DJ Halli Police Station after the violence.
The attacks on the mediapersons drew condemnation from elected officials, including chief minister .
Shivajinagar MLA Rizwan Arshad said, “I unequivocally condemn the attack on the media because the media is a pillar of democracy that we all have to respect. The police can’t take any such action, show any highhandedness against the media,” he said. “I will talk to the police authorities regarding this attack on the journalists.”
101Reporters called Sharnappa SD, the deputy commissioner of police, East Division, and the DJ Halli Police Station head for comments, but the calls went unanswered. This report will be updated if a response is received.
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