On September 13, a video went viral on social media showing a scuffle between a crew of Doordarshan journalists and teachers at Raghubar Dayal Jan Kalyan School in east Delhi’s Bhajanpura.
Afterwards, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights started an investigation into the incident because the journalists were allegedly filming children without permission.
But what led to the scuffle to begin with? Who is to blame?
There are conflicting versions of what happened.
Nagendra Upadhyay, a Sanskrit teacher at the government school, alleged that the DD crew – reporter Girish Nishan, cameraman Ajay Chopra, lighting assistant Anand Kashyap – entered the school and started filming without permission.
“The cameraman went to the children's bathroom and started filming. Then he went into classrooms. We kept asking them to stop,” he said.
RK Sharma, the principal, said, “The cameraman was asked not to shoot inside the school, and delete the videos they had already made. ‘If you want to make videos,’ we told them, ‘get permission first.’ We were going towards the principal's room with the cameraman to discuss the matter, and he started running towards the gate. The teachers caught him and he became violent. That’s how the scuffle began.”
The teachers alleged that a female teacher, Aanchal, who declined to give a second name, was injured in the scuffle.
Aanchal alleged that the journalists were accompanied by supporters of the local legislator, Ajay Mahawar of the BJP.
“Those people also entered the school and started beating up the teachers,” Aanchal said. “They pushed me and injured my neck.” She wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of the injury.
The scuffle lasted about 15 minutes, the teachers said, until the police arrived and took the DD crew as well as the principal and vice principal Amit Kumar to the Bhajanpura police station.
The police later filed an FIR against four teachers – Praveen Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Anil Kumar, Ghyanedar Kumar - on a complaint submitted by Nishan. In the complaint, the DD reporter accused the teachers of beating up his crew and damaging their equipment.
Another FIR was registered on Aanchal’s complaint, but without naming anyone. “I told the police about the MLA’s supporters in my statement, but they didn’t include that in the FIR,” she said.
The vice principal too has given a formal complaint to the police against the journalist claiming that they entered the school and started filming without permission. But the police are yet to act on the complaint.
“We can file one FIR from the school’s side and we have done that. We have taken a statement from the teacher who claims she was injured and filed an FIR based on her complaint,” said the investigating officer Sagar Yadav. “The mistake was on both sides, so two FIRs have been registered. The investigation is ongoing. We have asked for CCTV footage from the school.”
Nishan said they had gone to the school to report on the lack of basic facilities there.
“We learned about the problems students were facing at this school, so we went. We were talking to the children and their parents outside, and I asked our cameraman to go in and take some shots of the school. As he was doing so, four-five teachers attacked him and broke his camera,” he alleged. “They even tried to take us hostage by closing the gate. The school is just a tin shed, the children don’t even have clean drinking water. There are many problems there, and we’d gone there to show that.”
Chopra, the cameraman, said, “I was walking with the principal to his office when the teachers suddenly attacked me. They broke my camera. I had replaced the memory card with the footage of the school by then. All that happened is recorded. We’ll reveal it when the time comes.”
Nishan, contradictorily, claimed that the memory card with the footage was damaged by the teachers. The FIR mentions this as well.
Asked about the allegation by the teachers that the DD crew had arrived at the school with supporters of the MLA, Nishan said, “They were people from the neighbourhood. Maybe they were supporters of the MLA. People come after they see the camera. We didn't invite anyone.”
DD coverage of AAP
As , DD, the state broadcaster, has lately been aggressively covering the AAP government in Delhi, seeking to bust the “Arvind Kejriwal model” of running schools and mohalla clinics.
A day after the Bhajanpura scuffle, DD consulting editor Ashok Srivastava did a show titled, “”, which accused the Kejriwal government of orchestrating the assault on the DD crew in an attempt to hide the reality of its “school model.”
Srivastava’s show was of a pattern. He and fellow DD anchors have routinely been taking to task AAP, and other opposition parties, for their alleged failures. The general thrust of these shows is encapsulated by the title of an April 13 show hosted by Srivastava: “”
Since AAP has refused to send spokespersons on DD accusing it of being essentially a BJP mouthpiece, Srivastava kept an empty chair on the set that night, saying it was symbolically reserved for AAP, and specifically Kejriwal, who the anchor claimed was scared to answer his questions.