Headshots of The Caravan journalists Prabhjit Singh (left) and Shahid Tantray.
The Caravan journalists Prabhjit Singh (left), Shahid Tantray, and a female colleague were attacked in Delhi. (Photos: Courtesy of Prabhjit Singh, Bilal Kuchay)

Journalists with The Caravan magazine assaulted by anti-Muslim crowd in Delhi

New Delhi, August 12, 2020 — Delhi police must thoroughly investigate the attack on three journalists with The Caravan magazine and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At about 2 p.m. yesterday, a group of people in Delhi’s North Ghonda neighborhood attacked The Caravan reporters Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh, and a female journalist who asked not to be identified out of fear for her safety, according to a report by the magazine and its executive editor, Vinod K. Jose, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview. One of the attackers identified himself as an official from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the report said.

Over almost 90 minutes, the group slapped, shoved, and kicked Tantray after discovering he was a Muslim, according to that report, and also kicked Singh when he attempted to intervene on his colleague’s behalf. Tantray told his employer that the attackers “strangled me with the strap of the camera while others hit me.”

The female journalist, who took refuge in the nearby area when the attack began, wrote in a police complaint that three women and several men hit her on the head, arms, chest, and hips, and wrote that a middle-aged man exposed himself to her and taunted her.

The journalists were taken to a hospital after the attack for examinations, and were released to recover at home, Jose said. They suffered scratches and lasting aches and pains from the attack, he said.

“Delhi authorities need to stop hesitating and launch a formal investigation into the attack on three journalists with The Caravan magazine, which occurred in broad daylight in India’s capital,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Police must ensure journalists are not targeted for their work, and should ensure that members of the press of all faiths can work freely.”

The incident began after the journalists photographed saffron Hindu flags flying in the area, as part of the news magazine’s investigative series on the riots that took place in the capital in February, according to a complaint Singh filed to the Bhajanpura police station, which CPJ reviewed.

Several men approached the reporters and told them to delete the photos they had taken, according to the complaint. The men, one of whom identified himself as a “BJP general secretary,” demanded to know the identities of the journalists and, upon learning that Tantray was Muslim, they began to attack him, Singh wrote.

The female journalist wrote that a man exposed himself and made lewd gestures while laughing a her. Jose described the incident as “among the most shocking and offensive attacks on a woman journalist in India in a long time.”

The journalists each filed written complaints to police, but authorities have not registered a First Information Report, which would launch a formal investigation into the attack, Jose told CPJ.

Ashok Sharma, the station house officer at Bhajanpura police station, told CPJ that police were looking into the situation following complaints from “both sides.”

In a statement sent to CPJ via messaging app after this article’s publication, Eish Singhal, a public relations officer with the Delhi police, said that complaints from the journalists and a local woman were “being enquired into and appropriate legal action will be taken on conclusion of the enquiry.”

Singhal said that the enquiry was being conducted “as per law and procedures irrespective of faith or religion of the complainant. To suggest otherwise, is a deliberate attempt to malign Delhi Police’s image and is totally biased and unsubstantiated.”

He also said, “Taking pictures without consent may provoke those present and create law and order problems including communal problems.”
In February, groups of men in Delhi harassed journalists and inquired whether they were Muslim, as CPJ documented at the time. Female journalists in the country have recently faced online harassment and government obstruction while doing their jobs, as CPJ has documented.

[Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include comment from the Delhi police.]