How could a journalist have known that reporting from the court of law had the potential to be as dangerous as being stationed in a war zone, NDTV journalist Sonal Mehrotra wonders in her blog. Mehrotra's shock and surprise at being heckled, abused and attacked at the Patiala House court in Delhi yesterday mirrors the reactions of several other scribes present at the spot.
At a time when a debate on intolerance rages in the country, an attack on students, teachers and journalists inside the premises of a court of law, as the police allegedly looked away, says volumes about the state of affairs in the country.
When Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNUSU president who has been charged with sedition, was about to be presented in court, a group of people wearing lawyer's robes launched on the journalists, students and teachers. According to a report on The Economic Times, they were heard shouting slogans such has, "Hindustan Zindabad, JNU murdabad." One journalist, who hasn't been identified yet, has been seriously injured and is being treated in a Delhi hospital, the report adds.
Kanhaiya Kumar's speech in JNU.
Recounting the incident, Mehrotra writes that journalists, students and teachers are congregated in the Patiala house which was perfectly 'calm' before these so-called 'lawyers' struck.
"Out of the blue, some men in black jackets (the sort lawyers wear) and some in civil clothes came in and shouted at the teachers, "What are you anti-nationals doing here? Leave this place, this is not JNU, go back to Pakistan". They turned to me next. "Are you a JNU student? How dare you enter here, this is our court, not your JNU, leave now else you will be harmed," she writes.
Immediately after, strangely enough, the police escorted the journalists, not the attackers, out of the courtroom saying the 'situation was turning volatile'.
Ritika Jain, a DNA scribe present at the venue, writes, "After a lot of yelling, pushing and shoving, we, media persons, were unceremoniously thrown out of the courtroom. All this while, the police remained mute spectators. Some of them even laughed."
She goes on to recollect the horror faced in the courtroom. As the police refused to fight the attackers, they only turned more violent. They started grabbing people's phones and snatching them, fearing that their hooliganism may have been recorded by people on phones.
"Amit Pandey, a senior IBN7 journalist, was grabbed by five men and punched. A lawyer kicked his stomach while four others held him. Me and two other journalists – Sneha (Mail Today) and Sonal (NDTV)– held on to him, trying to protect him from the rain of blows that fell on him. I tried to shield Amit with my body, though, unfortunately, I was no match for the frenzied mob. Amit was dragged outside the courtroom and beaten up in the corridor. I was left behind," Jain says.
The mod returned for them. And had the following to say: "Leave now, or else we will do the same to you."
"I ran," writes Jain.
Mehrotra talks about the horror that awaited them outside the courtroom. "Some 100 men dressed as lawyers were shouting, "Who all are from JNU, leave now, or else we will send you out our way, bach ke nahi jaogay, maar maar ke Pakistan wapas bhej dengey (anyone from JNU leave now, we will not spare you, we will beat you and send you to Pakistan)".
So, in the premises of an institution which is supposed to uphold law, in the presence of the defenders of law, a group of lawyers had the gall to threaten women, students, unarmed activists with violence.
Sana Shakil, a TOI reporter Scroll spoke to, said that the mod had decided that the journalists present at the site were terrorists. She tells Scroll, "Mediawaale to vaise hi terrorists hai. Journalists are anyways terrorists, and they also look like JNU supporters, this is what they were yelling as they started to get violent."
And in their zeal to weed out these 'terrorists' the mob didn't bat an eyelid before beating up women either. "Delete the video or we will break your phone and break your bones," some of the goons threatened NDTV's Mehrotra, realising she may have recorded attack.
Basant Kumar Mohanty, reporting for The Telegraph, writes, "A lawyer pulled Rohit, an assistant professor at the Centre of Economic Studies and Planning at JNU, by his hair. He was dragged outside despite protests by other teachers like Kidwai, Janaki Nair and Himanshu. In the argument that ensued, a few other lawyers started chanting " Bharat Mata ki jai".
Some others, like CNN IBN's Meenakshi Upreti, was not only dragged out of the courtroom, but also told that she will be slapped across the face by the male members of the mob.
— Sayoni Aiyar (@sayoniaiyar) February 15, 2016
However, some other lawyers rose to the occasion and helped protect women journalist to the maximum of their capacity. Mehrotra writes, "A young lawyer looked me in the eye and asked me to follow him. His friends made a human chain around me and managed to get me out of the court premises. After they left me, they went back to bring Amit as well. I don't know who they were or their names, but I owe them a huge debt. They saved me."