Headshots of The Caravan journalists Prabhjit Singh (left) and Shahid Tantray.
The Caravan journalists Prabhjit Singh (left), Shahid Tantray, and a female colleague told the police that they were attacked by a mob. But the reporters are now being investigated for promoting communal enmity during the 2020 Delhi riots. (Photos: Courtesy of Prabhjit Singh, Bilal Kuchay)

Journalists with The Caravan face retaliatory police investigation in India

June 10, 2024, New Delhi—The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called on Delhi Police to drop its retaliatory investigation into three journalists from The Caravan magazine and instead prosecute those who assaulted them during the 2020 Delhi riots.

Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh, and an unnamed female colleague, who were attacked almost four years ago, discovered this month that the police had also opened an investigation into them on suspicion of promoting communal enmity and outraging the modesty of a woman, The Caravan reported.

On August 11, 2020, a mob attacked the journalists in northeast Delhi while they were reporting on the Delhi riots, the capital’s worst communal violence in decades, in which more than 50 people died, mostly Muslims. For about 90 minutes, the attackers slapped and kicked the journalists, used communal slurs, made death threats, and sexually harassed the woman, until they were rescued by the police, The Caravan said. The journalists filed complaints later that day, it said.

But The Caravan has since found out that the police first lodged a First Information Report (FIR) — a document opening an investigation — against the journalists on August 14 based on a complaint by an unnamed woman. An hour later on August 14, the police then registered the three journalists’ FIR, based on their complaints filed three days earlier.

“The police has informed us that our FIR is being considered a ‘counter FIR,’” The Caravan said, adding that it had not been given a certified copy of the FIR against its staff because of its “sensitive nature.”

“The Delhi Police’s actions against The Caravan journalists, based on a secret document that has not even been shared with them, are deeply troubling. This is a clear attempt to retaliate against journalists who were themselves the victims of a violent mob. The opacity surrounding the entire process is unacceptable,” said Kunal Majumder, CPJ’s India representative. “The Delhi Police must ensure a genuine, unbiased investigation into the attack on these journalists, instead of targeting them for doing their work by reporting on terrible sectarian bloodshed. Transparency and justice are paramount to uphold press freedom and democratic values in India.”

The journalists did not find out about the case against them until June 3 when the police sent a notice to Singh’s former residence asking him to help with an investigation into the three journalists, which he did, according to multiple news reports.

“The allegations in the FIR are absolutely false and fabricated,” The Caravan said, adding that it had not been informed of any police action to follow up on its journalists’ complaint.

Joy Tirkey, Deputy Commissioner of Police for Northeast Delhi, did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment.

Editor’s note: The headline was updated to correct the description of the journalists.