Photojournalists assaulted by security forces in West Bengal

Local police beat three photographers in two separate incidents on June 18, 2009, in India’s West Bengal state. They were covering a government offensive by police and paramilitary forces trying to break a four-day siege of the Lalgarh area by Maoist insurgents, according to local news reports.

Photojournalist Sanat Kumar Sinha said police attacked him and an unnamed colleague between the villages of Pirakata and Lalgarh, according to his newspaper, the Calcutta-based English daily The Telegraph. Security forces also attacked another photographer, Shubham Datta, and at least five other photojournalists at Maledah village, about 1 mile (2 kilometers) from the Pirakata police outpost on the same day, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

Sinha and his colleague were caught in a standoff between security forces and villagers, according to his report. Although they complied with police requests to turn off their cameras, one officer apparently ignored their media-accreditation cards and interrogated them about the whereabouts of Maoist rebels. The officer then beat the journalists repeatedly with a stick, according to Sinha. He was later treated for injuries to his arm and leg.

Local media said the security operation was in response to recent Maoist attacks against local officials. The area around Lalgarh is inhabited primarily by tribal people who say they have been ignored and alienated by the local government for the past three decades, and now form a strong support base for the rebels, according to the news reports.