On Sunday, a journalist in Delhi's Jantar Mantar was allegedly forced by a mob to chant "Jai Shri Ram" while reporting on a march demanding the establishment of a uniform civil code in the country.
The journalist, Anmol Pritam, 24, works with YouTube media channel National Dastak. He told Newslaundry that he had gone to Jantar Mantar to report on the march which had included the shouting of "inflammatory" and "anti-Muslim" slogans. The march, attended by hundreds, , had been called by Supreme Court lawyer and former Delhi BJP spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay to protest against "colonial-era" laws in the country.
Pritam said he reached the site at around 3 pm on Sunday along with his cameraperson Ashish Thakur.
"When I reached, a group of about 300-400 people were chanting slogans such as ‘Jab mulle kaate jaynege to Ram-Ram chillayenge’," he said. Loosely translated, the slogan says, "When the Muslims will be killed, they will yell and shout Ram Ram."
"I was a bit offended by that," Pritam continued, "considering there was heavy police personnel deployed and even amid this, such communal slogans were being shouted. For the past seven years, a right-wing party has been in power. Despite this, Hindus were protesting. So, I wanted to know their cause."
Protesters at the spot told him that the Population Control Bill and "about 200 sections" of the Indian Penal Code were "against Indian culture" and should be retracted or amended.
"They also spoke about the farmer protests, the evacuation of the Rohingyas, and the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits," Pritam said.
Pritam then asked some of the protesters about prime minister Narendra Modi's efforts in eradicating poverty in India.
"I asked them, when the prime minister himself has to give food to the poor, this means that the country is still inflicted with poverty," he said. This, he claimed, "triggered" the crowd who began shouting at him and asking whether he was from a "jihadi channel".
"They began countering my point, saying there was so much poverty during Congress rule and that the Modi government has done nothing but uplift the country," Pritam said. "In the meantime, a man from the group came and asked the protesters not to speak with us because we will 'not show' their cause on our channel. The entire group started shouting that we are a 'jihadi channel'."
Pritam said he objected. "I said, 'I will televise your cause, please speak to us.' Then, the group surrounded me and asked me to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Vande Mataram'."
He said he chanted "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" but refused to say "Jai Shri Ram" because, "in my personal opinion, I think it is a political phrase. If I feel like saying it, I will."
A man then approached him, took him by the shoulders, and asked in Hindi whether he was unable to speak. "Initially I was a bit calm about all of this and thought I would be able to handle the situation," Pritam told Newslaundry. "I didn't think they would get violent. But at this point, I was scared. I feared it might go out of control and that they might get violent with me."
So, Pritam said, he and his colleague extricated themselves from the crowd and away from the protesters. He told Newslaundry that it was privilege that he had his microphone and camera with him which is why he believes the crowd did not assault him. But, he said, the crowd tried to test his "love" for India by asking him to chant the slogans.
Meanwhile, the Delhi police has against unknown persons for raising "inflammatory" slogans at Jantar Mantar. The police also said the organisers had not taken permission for the rally.