Former official assaults Indian journalist, family in Gujarat

July 10, 2019 11:20 AM ET

Harshad Ahir (second from left) and fellow journalists march in Valsad, Gujarat, after the journalist was attached on June 6, 2019. (Image via Harshad Ahir)

On July 6, 2019, three men assaulted Harshad Ahir, Valsad bureau chief of privately owned daily Gujarat Mitra, and his wife and infant child at their home in Gujarat's Valsad district, in western India, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via phone, and news reports.

Ahir told CPJ that the attackers were led by Dharmesh Patel, a former head administrator of Bhagdawada village, in Valsad district, and was in retaliation for critical coverage about him in Gujarat Mitra the previous week.

Patel and five associates arrived at Ahir's apartment building around 10:15 p.m. and asked him to come outside, the journalist told CPJ. When he refused, Patel and two others broke into Ahir's apartment, where they slapped and punched Ahir and his wife and also kicked the journalist's infant daughter, Ahir said. Patel threatened to kill Ahir, the journalist told local daily Indian Express.

During the attack, Patel repeatedly referenced an article published in Gujarat Mitra, which criticized a public works project under Patel's tenure as "inefficient," Ahir told Indian Express.

Ahir and his wife received minor injuries, which were attended to at a local hospital, and the infant was unharmed, he told CPJ. "The entire incident has left my family very scared," Ahir said.

Valsad Superintendent of Police Sunil Joshi told CPJ via phone that officers arrested two of Patel's accomplices for alleged assault, trespassing, and intimidation, but said that Patel was "on the run."

CPJ was unable to locate contact information for Patel.

Since May, CPJ has documented multiple violent attacks against journalists in India by individuals allegedly acting on behalf of mining interests, police officers, and private companies.

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