Scribes covering Bengal rural poll nominations attacked in Kolkata, districts
Across Bengal, several scribes, including two women, were assaulted, kidnapped and threatened with dire consequences if they photographed or reported what they saw on Monday, the last day for filing nomination.kolkata Updated: Apr 24, 2018 19:59 IST
For journalists from print and electronic media, covering the panchayat elections in Bengal has become a high-risk affair. A large number of scribes, including some women, have been assaulted and intimidated ever since the process of filing nomination for the polls began on April 2.
The worst so far came on Monday, April 23, the last day for filing nomination. Across Bengal, several scribes, including two women, were assaulted, kidnapped and threatened with dire consequences if they photographed or reported what they saw.
A woman working for a Bengali television channel was among two scribes who were attacked at Alipore outside the headquarters of the South 24 Parganas district administration in the heart of south Kolkata. In Burdwan and Birbhum districts, several journalists sustained injuries when they tried to cover the nomination process and the associated violence.
This was not the first time scribes were attacked in Alipore that is within 500 metre of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence. On April 9, Biplab Mondal, a freelance photographer working for an English national daily was assaulted and stripped to his undergarments after he photographed an illegal gathering of men in Alipore.
The daily registered a complaint with the police on April 10. The chief minister, however, later said the police told her that no such incident took place.
“The youths wanted to know if I mailed or shared any photo or video on social media before they grabbed me. They searched my phone, but did not find anything. Then they forced me to take off my clothes. Imagine what might have happened if it was a woman in my place,” said Mondal.
“It is difficult to say how many journalists were attacked since most of the incidents took place in the districts,” said Kingshuk Pramanik, secretary of Press Club, Kolkata that condemned Monday’s incidents and appealed to the state government to ensure safety for working journalists.
“Reporters and photographers covering the filing of nomination for panchayat elections are being repeatedly attacked in Bengal. Press Club, Kolkata condemned such attacks in the past and drew the attention of police and administration. In spite of that many journalists were attacked on Monday in Kolkata, Durgapur, Suri and other places,” the club said in a statement.
State education minister Partha Chatterjee described the attacks on scribes as “unfortunate” and accused the BJP and Left of unleashing violence.
On Monday, Pragya Saha, a female reporter from a Bengali television channel and Aryabhatta Khan, a reporter with a leading Bengali daily, were both kidnapped and intimidated by groups of youths, who were roaming around on motorcycles outside the Alipore administrative building. Most of them had their faces covered.
“Around 20-25 youths showered kicks and blows on me after I clicked a photograph of the crowd. They took me away and snatched by phone and wristwatch” said Khan.
“A group of youths forcefully took me to a room in a slum area. They talked to me in filthy language and confined me for four hours. They threatened to harm my family if I opened my mouth. They formatted my phone and handed me over to some policemen,” said Saha.