Threatened and heckled: An HT reporter’s experience while covering protests in Mumbai
Trouble started after a group of protesters halted traffic on SV Roadmumbai Updated: Jan 04, 2018 16:43 IST
Threats of physical violence, intimidation and attempts to damage my property — this was my experience of covering the protests in Goregaon.
The trouble started after a group of protesters halted traffic at SV Road. I tried to ask them what their demands were, but they dismissed me saying, “Go read the news”. On noticing another group aggressively blocking a biker, I took a photograph. This angered a woman, who pushed me and demanded an explanation for my actions. I told her I was there as a reporter covering the protest, and asked her not to push me again. She denied having pushed me and started yelling, which attracted the attention of a few people, who surrounded us.
A man next to me saw that I had begun writing a caption for the photo and asked me not to publish it on social media. One after another, the protesters demanded my phone be taken away. A man, who appeared to be in his fifties, grabbed my arm and demanded that I delete the photo.
Afraid that the violence might escalate, I called Vikram Deshmane, the local deputy commissioner of police. He asked me to find the nearest policeman. It was only after I turned around that I realised there were more than 30 men surrounding me. That’s when the fear hit. Deshmane kept talking to me, eventually guiding me to a van near the petrol pump, where a senior officer briefed a sub-inspector and asked him to ensure my safety. The crowd surrounding me had grown larger by then and I heard a protester saying he would bash my head in. I avoided eye contact, fearing any reaction on my part would agitate the crowd further. A man, who appeared to be drunk, tried to charge at me twice. Fortunately, members of the crowd kept him at bay as they did not want the protests to turn violent.
A man threatened me, ordering me not to return to the area. He kept trying to grab me, but was unsuccessful. The sub-inspector then asked me to step inside the van. However, the protesters blocked its exit and two of them tried to enter it. The constable stood firm and did not let that happen. Another officer said he would take me to the police station, where I would be safe. On arrival, I waited there for an hour but the crowd had not yet dispersed. The policeman shut the gates and asked me to sit in a room out of the protesters’ sight. An hour later, the road cleared and I resumed reporting.