'Each photo-journalist was chased, attacked by 25 men'
First person account of the violence by Anshuman Poyrekar, Senior photographer, HT.mumbai Updated: Aug 12, 2012 01:24 IST
I reached Azad Maidan on Saturday afternoon to cover a protest organised in connection with the violence against Muslims in Assam and Myanmar. It was a huge crowd.
After a while, we heard an orator blaming the media for not giving adequate coverage to the plight of Muslims there. A colleague sensed something amiss and suggested we click pictures and leave.
After our job was done, we went to a restaurant nearby for lunch. Within minutes, I got a call saying that an outdoor broadcasting (OB) van of a news channel was on fire.
A few photographers and I started running towards Azad Maidan, when a mob of about 400 people clashed with us. We got separated and each of us was attacked by at least 25 men.
They asked us which media organisations we work for. When I told them, they punched me. They tried to snatch my camera, and when I resisted, they beat me up and fled with my mobile phone.
Five to six other photographers were also beaten up. The protesters were not smashing the cameras; they were stealing them and fleeing. A photographer was also robbed of his gold chain.
Policemen were also being targeted. If they saw one alone, they would beat him up, and flee. I saw a man begging a policeman for help. The cop told him, "Should I save your life or my own?" The police were helpless since they were armed with only lathis.
At around 3.15pm, the police commissioner arrived at the spot. However, protesters continued to pelt stones, vandalise vehicles and beat up anyone they could spot. The police eventually started firing in the air.
I, meanwhile, stood stunned as the rampaging mob left, looking for its next target.