The Delhi Union of Journalists has condemned the Delhi Police beating up journalist Ahan Penkar on October 16. Penkar, a scribe who works for Caravan magazine, was reporting on a protest outside Model Town police station at the time.
In a statement released on Saturday, the DUJ said it was “shocked” at the manner in which the police beat up Penkar and several other protesters, despite him having shown the police his press card.
In a report, the Caravan elaborated on the ordeal the journalist and other protesters faced at the hands of the police. On Friday, the 24-year-old reached the police station in the afternoon to report on the protest by a crowd of about thirty people. The protesters included the family of the Dalit girl who had been allegedly raped and murdered on October 14.
The protesters demanded that an FIR be registered in connection with the circumstances surrounding the death, with some of her family moving inside to do so. The journalist was speaking to her family when between ten to 15 police officials asked the crowd to disperse. When they didn’t, the police took some protesters and the teenager’s family inside.
What followed for the next four hours had Penkar “shaking the entire time”. Penkar’s press card did not serve any purpose, “I showed it every chance I could,” he said.
“The police personnel dragged Penkar and several others to a room inside the station, which had a desk, some chairs, and a small bed. The five young men—Penkar and four Delhi University students who were among those protesting—were made to sit on the floor. Other protestors were detained as well, in other parts of the police station. During the next several hours, at least five police personnel as well as the ACP entered the room and beat up the young men. At least ten police personnel went in and out of the room, constantly verbally assaulting, threatening and deriding the young men,” the report said.
Penkar said the ACP first slapped him, proceeding to kick him on his thighs and in his face. “There was no doubt about that, even when I was being beaten up, they knew I was from the media,” the 24-year-old said.
A police official told the protesters: “Why do you all keep doing this? Tumhe nahi pata hai ki desh badal gaya hai? (Do you not know the country has changed?)
The report mentioned that a police officer asked Penkar to unlock his phone. When he refused to do so, he summoned a plain-clothed man who said he would make the journalist “piss his pants”. The man reportedly threatened the 24-year-old into deleting images and videos of the protest.
The police officials refused to return his phone or his press card, with the journalist saying they were “torturing” them, “first telling us that they were going to let us go, and then saying, ‘The commissioner wants to keep you overnight’”.
Penkar received injuries on his nose, shoulder, back and ankle. He has filed a complaint with S.N.Srivastava, Delhi’s commissioner of police.
Penkar has filed a complaint to SN Shrivastava, Delhi's commissioner of police. pic.twitter.com/ywR05QuAQc
— The Caravan (@thecaravanindia) October 16, 2020
This is the second incident of Caravan staffers being assaulted in recent months. In August, Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh and a woman journalist – were attacked by a mob in North-East Delhi. They were said to be taking pictures of saffron flags which had been put up in the area when a mob asked them to refrain from doing on. On realising that one of the journalists was Muslim, they attacked the trio over the next hour and a half, threatening them with murder.
In its statement, the DUJ urged Srivastava to conduct an inquiry into the incident and “take immediate, exemplary action against the police officers involved.”