In a gruesome incident, which took place at the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, a young woman journalist, who writes for well-known news portal "The Wire", was manhandled On January 7 when she, accompanied another colleague from the daily, "Ahmedabad Mirror" (AM), were on their duty. They were seeking to ascertain facts related to M Mariraj, a third year Dalit resident doctor, who had attempted suicide claiming caste-based discrimination.
While the incident was reported (January 8) by AM as part of a story around the Dalit fury at the hospital following the suicide, Damayanti Dhar, who writes for the news portal, has said in a Facebook post that she and AM reporter Brendan-Anton Dabhi "were attacked by a mob of about 15-20 Dalit men".
"I was manhandled, heckled, my press card and our mobiles snatched away and recording deleted. All this while about 7-8 men kept recording what they did to me while abusing me verbally", writes Dhar, adding, "It has taken some time for me to be in the right state of mind to pen this down."
Dhar says, without naming anyone, "I haven’t been as much disturbed by the attack on me as much by the response I got from leftists, activists and editors, all of whom I have seen standing up for freedom of press and free speech always earlier. I was advised to let this go, take it was professional hazard, not write about this, not file complaint against Dalits."
Pointing out the reason given to her asking her for not to file a complaint was, "it would go against the movement", with some even scaring her by saying that if she filed a complaint "there might be counter complaints", Dhar says, "When no one stood by me, I decided to write to the Commissioner of Police of Ahmedabad. I am thankful that the police acted so promptly." "
As for me, this attack made the hypocrisy of the leftists journalists-activists-editors quite clear", alleges Dhar, adding, "In past one week or so, four reporters have been either attacked or heckled by leftists, activists/Dalit activists-protestors and it is not acceptable. I wonder if these incidents were of right-wing elements heckling reporters what would the same people say."
She continues, "I have seen many taking pleasure in attack on some reporters just because they were from certain channels. As I was being attacked, in my fear, anger and disappointment of being not supported, I can feel what each of those reporters go through being attacked."
AM, reporting on the incident (January 8), said, it took place when the two journalists reached out to Mariraj. As they were interviewing him, the miscreants heckled them, forcing them to delete recordings from their phone and pushing them around while shouting obscenities in the hospital.
AM continued, things turned ugly soon after the journalists asked Mariraj about the allegation being made against him -- of overreacting. Before further questions could be asked to him, the goons led by a person identifying himself as high court lawyer and Dalit activist, locked the reporters out of the room.
When the door opened after several minutes, said AM, the mob pushed the two around, accusing them 'of being Brahminical and Manuvadi', while demanding that the interview recording be deleted. They could have been physically attacked but for the intervention of cops present there.
Dhar continues in her Facebook post, particularly referring to the manner in which the Dalit advocate behaved, he kept shouting "Brahmanwadi Manuwadi media" and "threatened me of atrocity case." She adds, "He snatched my press card from the cop who came to rescue and threatened, Dhar ho, Brahman ho, dekhta hu mein etc.", adding, "aap koi akhbar ya channel se nahi ho, zyada bade reporter nahi ho" (you are a Dhar, a Brahmin, will see you... you are not from any big reporter from newspaper or channel).