Political group attacks photojournalist covering Indian elections

A group of political supporters attacked freelance photojournalist Jay Mandal at an election rally in Nandigram, West Bengal, India, on May 5, 2009, according to news reports and the New York-based South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA). 

Mandal, who lives in New York, was in Nandigram photographing a Bharatiya Janata Party meeting when a group of about 20 motorcyclists wearing headbands from the Trinamool Congress Party attacked the speaker, the reports said.

Sree Sreenivasan of SAJA posted a telephone interview with Mandal about the incident on the SAJAforum Web site. “I was just bewildered, I didn’t know what to do, but then suddenly realized, oh my god, it’s an attack,” Mandal said in the interview. “So I took pictures…but because I was shooting against the sunlight, I was using flash. And that flash caught the attention of these attackers.”

The attackers hit Mandal, smashed his camera equipment, and confiscated his memory cards, he said. Mandal, who contributes to news outlets including Rediff and the Kolkata-based The Telegraph, is receiving medical treatment for injuries to his leg and shoulder in Kolkata, according to SAJA.

“I was hit so many times on my face, on my back, pulling hair…kicking me on my back. Some of the guys shouted from the back, ‘Kill him,’ in Bengali…At one point I thought, I’m not going to make it at all,” Mandal told Sreenivasan.

“One of the guys told me we don’t want any journalists in this place. They are the main root cause of all the problems because they misrepresent,” he said.