Assam journalist says bureaucrat ‘assaulted’ him, cops ‘snatched his camera’ for ‘asking questions’

The District Commissioner denied the charges and claimed the journalist entered his office without permission.

WrittenBy:Pratyush Deep
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A Guwahati-based journalist has alleged that the police snatched his camera and deleted its memory hours after the Nagaon deputy commissioner allegedly assaulted him inside his office for asking questions – about the delay in processing documents for a loan waiver and the lack of access to a public toilet.

A video on social media showed Dipankar Medhi, chief reporter at NB News, being pushed away and escorted by the police from the Office of District Commissioner. Medhi claimed he was detained for around eight hours at the Nagaon Sadar police station after Nagaon Deputy Commissioner Narendra Kumar Shah told the police to take him away from his office. There was no FIR against Medhi over the incident on Friday. 

In a video circulating on social media, the journalist could be seen telling the media that he recently underwent a heart surgery but the bureaucrat pushed him on his chest.   

Atanu Bhuyan, editor of NB News, alleged the police returned Medhi’s official camera only after “erasing the memory card”.

Meanwhile, journalist bodies in Assam have termed the incident as high handedness of the bureaucracy. Sushmita Goswami, president of the Gauhati Press Club, said they have sought a probe and the city journalists organised a protest on Saturday to condemn the incident.

Nagaon SP Nabaneet Mahanta could not be reached for comment. Nagaon Sadar police station Partha Pratim Singkan did not respond to our calls. This report will be updated if a response is received.

Speaking to the media, Nagaon DC Shah called the incident “unfortunate” and said he has respect for the media and journalists. He said the journalist entered his chamber and recorded without permission to complain about their altercation with the lady constable. 

“He continued to record when I was talking to him. He was a bit agitated and wanted me to take immediate action, which I could not do. I politely asked him to leave and stop recording but he did not listen. Then I ordered to take him out,” Shah told the media. He also denied that he assaulted the journalist physically. 

At the protest against Nagaon DC Narendra Kumar Shah.

Medhi claimed he had sought an appointment with Shah after a 62-year-old woman had approached him for help after running from pillar to post to get documents approved for a loan waiver. It was a loan taken by her husband, who worked with the Assam education department and died about two decades ago in an accident.

“The department told her that it can’t be done until she got some papers signed by the concerned authority where the accident had taken place. But for nearly six months, she had been running from pillar to post to get these documents approved. Then she approached us and I decided to help her,” Medhi told Newslaundry.

“He went there with proper permission from DC to take a byte. But as he was asking questions, the DC assaulted Medhi inside the chamber saying who was he to ask questions,” NB News editor Bhuyan told Newslaundry.

Medhi claimed that among the questions he asked was a query about the denial of public access to toilets in the DC office. “A lady constable humiliated the woman with words like ‘use your brain’ when she asked the constable about the toilet. So I asked the DC why officials in the office misbehave with people this way and why they have closed the public toilet. The second thing that I asked was why people have to come to the office again and again to get their work done,” he claimed.

In response to his question, Medhi claimed that the bureaucrat said the delay might be due to some officials being on leave. “We did not expect to get this kind of response.” 

However, officials from the DC’s office denied there was any assault and said that after the issue involving the elderly woman was resolved, Medhi re-entered the bureaucrat’s chamber without permission and started to ask the same question about the toilet repeatedly. Both sides then got agitated and the police were called to take the journalist away, they claimed.

However, Medhi claimed he had re-entered Shah’s office only with permission. He alleged that the police “dragged me out of the office like a thief or dacoit. They made me sit in the police station for no reason till 10 pm. Later, some official came and took my statement and allowed me to leave.”

Sushmita Goswami said if the journalist was at fault, “the DC could have registered an FIR and got him arrested.  All this shows high-handedness of the district administration.”

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