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A sea-plane takes off in Ahmedabad in December. A journalist says Dalit activists in the city attacked and threatened her when she tried to interview a patient. (Reuters/ Amit Dave)

In India, Dalit activists harass journalists during hospital interview

January 17, 2018 12:13 PM ET

A group of Dalit activists harassed two journalists at an Ahmedabad hospital on January 7, 2018, and deleted a recording of an interview, according to one of the reporters. Damayantee Dhar, a reporter for The Wire, told CPJ that she and Brendan Dhabi, a reporter for the Ahmedabad Mirror, were harassed and threatened while trying to interview a patient.

Dhar said that she and Dhabi, a local beat reporter who was helping her with the story, went to the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital to interview M. Mariraj about a police complaint that he filed alleging caste-based discrimination. Mariraj, a Dalit, from one of India's lower castes, was being treated after trying to take his life. "For 40 minutes, the interview went well," Dhar told CPJ, adding that Mariraj agreed to have the interview recorded.

Dhar said that activists later disrupted the interview. "Just then, three Dalit activists came into the room. One of them, a lawyer... started interrupting me," she said, adding that the lawyer allegedly tried to stop Dhar from asking Mariraj questions.

Dhar said that after she and Dhabi left, about 15 Dalit activists locked themselves inside the room with Mariraj. A few minutes later, the group came back out, tried to take Dhar's phone, twisted Dhabi's arm and verbally abused and shouted at the journalists, Dhar told CPJ. She said that police were called and while the journalists were talking with an officer, the activists came into the room and threated the journalists with violence if they reported on Mariraj's case. "All of them barged in, snatched my fellow reporter's phone and Mariraj deleted the recording of my interview with him," Dhar said.

Dhar said that she filed a statement with police on January 10, 2018. Geeta Pathan, the Shahibaug police inspector whose jurisdiction covers the area where the attack took place, told CPJ that police advised Dhar that she can file a First Information Report, but said that the journalist told them "she'll speak to her bosses first."

Dhar said that she is trying to recover the files deleted from her phone before filing the police report.

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