The Delhi Police's motto for women might be “Your Safety, Our Priority”, but going by the series of complaints filed against them, one would be forced to think otherwise. According to reports, police personnel have been alleged of molesting and manhandling women protesters during a number of protests organised in the city. And the latest in the series of complaints of sexual harassment comes from journalists who were covering a protest march organised by the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Friday.
Reporters were standing at the protest site near Sanjay Jheel at Laxmi Bai Nagar around 6:15 pm when the police lathi-charged the protesting students and teachers. As soon as the cops resorted to baton charge, a city police officer – Inspector Vidyadhar Singh – allegedly came to the woman journalist and pushed her away.
After the officer was informed that she was journalist, he backed off for momentarily. But moments after that, Singh allegedly proceeded towards her again, looked at her chest and placed his hand on it and pushed her. When she confronted him against the alleged molestation, he denied and said she was lying.
The journalist fraternity in the national capital has taken strong offence and decided to protest against the incident outside Delhi Police Headquarters today.The police, however, requested them not to go ahead with their scheduled agitation, and instead invited them to “meet for coffee”.
“Yesterday’s incident was a very unfortunate one. Our deepest apologies to the media. Our intention wasn’t to obstruct the media from doing its job. In the confusion, some female police personnel mistook the photojournalist as a protester. While that is still not an excuse, I would like to stress (that) it was completely by accident. We have taken strong cognisance of the matter and an inquiry has been ordered,” Crime Branch DCP Madhur Verma, who is also public relation officer of the city, wrote on ‘PHQ – PRO’, a WhatsApp group meant for journalists.
He further said, “I would request all of you to call off the protest. Instead, let’s meet for coffee at 3 pm today at the PRO office at PHQ (Police Headquarters) to address all your grievances. What has happened is very unfortunate and therefore, let’s take constructive and corrective measures.”
Newsclick tried to speak to two ex-commissioners of the city but they refused to make any comment on the matter. But a former top cop of the Uttar Pradesh police said the cops misbehave with journalists “intentionally to stop them from reporting incidents that may turn out to be their bad PR”.
“It is very unfortunate that the policeman molested a journalist. Actually, so many times, they do it with the purpose to stop journalists from covering an event which they think to be a bad PR for the police. claim of the DCP that the cops mistook the journalists as protesters is a flawed argument. The police clearly know who is a protester is and who is a journalist. But still, they misbehave with them intentionally,” SR Darapuri, former Inspector General of the UP police, told Newsclick.
“Even if they mistook the journalist as a protestor, they were not supposed to behave like that with female agitators,” he added.
JNU students had taken out the ‘long march’ of more than 1,000 against compulsory attendance, autonomy and “lack of administrative action”, from the university campus to Parliament Street, against the varsity professor Atul Johri who has been accused of sexual harassment by eight women students. The protest march turned violent after the police lathi-charged them and lobbed water cannons. Around 20 students were detained at Defense Colony police station amid the allegation that they were manhandled by the cops.
“The women protesters’ clothes were torn off, they were manhandled by male cops and they were brutally beaten up. The Delhi police threw water cannon at us and detained 22 comrades, including eight women and isolated them from the rest of the protesters. The police brutality continued even in the police custody,” said former JNU Students’ Union President Satarupa Chakraborty.
This is not the first time when such an allegation has been levelled against the Delhi Police. same scene and conduct have been witnessed at different occasions. Earlier, the city police misbehaved with ailing Fatima Nafees, the mother of Najeeb Ahmad. Ahmad had mysteriously disappeared from JNU campus after an alleged scuffle with ABVP students and has been untraceable for the past one year.
Following a hearing at the Delhi High Court, she was addressing the media when the police dragged her to their vehicle and released her after a brief detention.