Two FIRs in a day: Journalist held at Singhu accused of ‘assaulting’ public officials

Mandeep Punia was detained at Singhu Saturday evening, along with fellow reporter Dharmender Singh. Siddharth Vardarajan of the Wire has invited an FIR for publishing a report on farmer’s death.

ByNL Team
Two FIRs in a day: Journalist held at Singhu accused of ‘assaulting’ public officials
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At 6.44 pm on Saturday, the Delhi police detained two journalists covering the farmer protest at Singhu border. Mandeep Punia is a freelance reporter who was on assignment for the Caravan magazine, Dharmender Singh works for Online News India.

Dharmender was released at around 5 am on Sunday on an undertaking that he would not do “such things again”, Newslaundry learnt. Mandeep, meanwhile, had an FIR registered against him at the Alipur police station at 1.21 am. He was booked under penal code provisions related to the offences of obstructing, assaulting or voluntarily hurting public officials, and “criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all”. Newslaundry has a copy of the FIR.

But even after filing the FIR against Mandeep, the police refused to disclose where he and Dharmender were being held. This morning it was confirmed that Mandeep was at the Samaypur Badli police station, 17 km away from Singhu, and would be produced before the duty magistrate at the Rohini district court in the afternoon.

In the FIR, the police claim that they had tightened security and put up barricades at Singhu after a “clash” between the farmers and a group of “locals” on Friday. At around 6.30 pm, 10-15 people, whom the FIR calls “pradarshankari”, or protesters, tried to breach the barricades four or five times, compelling the police to use “minimal force” to stop them.

In the melee, the FIR alleges, Mandeep pulled a government official called Rajkumar, who fell down in a ditch and had to be picked up by the police. Mandeep himself sustained a few injuries.

The police’s version of the journalist’s arrest differs from what eyewitnesses told Newslaundry. They said a local resident wanting to cross the barricades got into an argument with the police and Mandeep began filming it, only to be caught and dragged away by the police.

Mandeep’s wife, Leela Shree, said she went to the Samaypur Badli police station early Sunday morning with a fresh set of clothes for her husband. There, she asked for a copy of the FIR but her request went unheeded. “I have been asking the police for the FIR copy but they are just not giving it to me,” she said at around 10 am.

FIR against Siddharth Vardarajan

The Uttar Pradesh police, meanwhile, continue to crack down on the press. Having booked six journalists for sedition for merely reporting on the death of a protester, Navreet Singh, during the Republic Day parade, they have now filed an FIR against Siddharth Vardarajan, editor of the Wire, for publishing a report on Navreet’s death and postmortem. The report claims that Navreet’s family have “refused to accept the Delhi police’s claim that he died because his tractor overturned and insists he was shot”. They have also raised doubts about the postmortem report, according to the Wire.

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