Protesters in Bangalore, the capital of India’s Karnataka state, on September 12, 2016, assaulted Rohini Swamy, deputy editor of the English-language news channel India Today TV, and Madhu Y, a cameraman for the channel, as the two covered demonstrations against a Supreme Court order to divert some water from the Cauvery River to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.
Protesters wearing the yellow and red Karnataka state flag on their shoulders first threatened Swamy and Madhu as the two tried to film them forcibly closing shops in Bangalore, Swamy told the Committee to Protect Journalists. One protester threatened to break the journalists’ equipment.
“He took out his mobile phone and started taking pictures of me because he wanted to record my face,” Swamy told CPJ.
Swamy and Madhu were later threatened and assaulted while preparing a live shot of more than 200 people burning buses in a different neighborhood. Swamy told CPJ that as they were preparing to broadcast, a group of about 30 men surrounded her and asked her to stop working, since she too was from the area and the “Cauvery flowed in her blood.”
Swamy and Madhu complied and were about to leave the area when a man in his mid-50s incited the group to stop them, she told CPJ.
“He is the one who started hitting my cameraperson and me, pulling our bags and equipment,” she said.
A group of 10 men dragged Madhu, beat him, and destroyed his camera, Swamy said.
“Another group of 10-15 dragged me to the opposite side of the road, kicked me in the abdomen, pinched me, clawed at me, and touched my private parts,” Swamy told CPJ. “I had the microphone in my hand, and I [used it to] try to push away some of them, and I ran.”
A man from the crowd pulled Swamy and Madhu away from the group and asked them to “just leave the place.”
Although the physical violence ended, a group of men continued following the two until they got into her car and drove to the relative safety of the Bangalore University campus, she said.
Later, Swamy went to a private hospital for treatment, and from there went to a government hospital to register a medico-legal case and begin investigations. A formal first information report (FIR) is yet to be registered with police because the attackers remain unidentified.
“We are trying to identify the people who attacked Rohini and Madhu and have got some leads,” Charan Reddy, additional commissioner of police for Bangalore West told CPJ.
“For the future, we would request journalists to inform the police in advance before going out to cover such protests. Or, at least, go in a group,” he added.