Rejoinder: Delhi Police cannot absolve itself of crimes it stands accused of

14 August 2020

On 10 August, The Caravan published a report titled, “Delhi Police beat and sexually assaulted us in Bhajanpura station: Riots complainant and daughter,” by the journalists Prabhjit Singh and Shahid Tantray. They reported on accusations by women residents of Subhash Mohalla, in northeast Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood, that police officials had beaten and sexually assaulted them inside the premises of Bhajanpura police station on the night of 8 August. The women, Shaheen Khan, Shanno, and the latter’s 17-year-old daughter accused the police of slapping, hitting and manhandling them, and of touching Shanno and the teenager on their chests. The report also noted that the Delhi Police had denied these allegations. The women had visited the station to seek the registration of a first-information report into an incident from two days earlier, when Hindu locals, who were celebrating the stone-laying ceremony at the Ram temple in Ayodhya, tied saffron flags to the gate leading into the Muslim neighbourhood.

The day after the report on this incident was published, on 11 August, three journalists working with The Caravan—Singh, Tantray and a woman journalist—returned to the neighbourhood for follow-up reporting. That afternoon, as they were taking photos of saffron flags tied in a Hindu locality of Subhash Mohalla, a mob of locals surrounded and assaulted them. One among the mob said he was a “general secretary” of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Under attack for around an hour and a half, the journalists were beaten, subjected to communal slurs, and threatened with murder. During her attempt to escape the attack, the woman journalist was sexually harassed by a man who exposed himself to her. Finally, the police intervened and the journalists were taken to Bhajanpura police station, where they filed detailed complaints about the attack. The police did not register an FIR against these complaints. The next day, The Caravan published a report about the attack and sexual harassment faced by its staffers.

Later that night, the Delhi Police published a rejoinder to the 10 August report, about the accusations of sexual assault raised by the women residents of Subhash Mohalla, on Twitter. In it, the Delhi Police repeated its denial of any violence or sexual assault upon the women, and claimed that the women had left the station “after a lot of persuasion.” In the subject line its response the Delhi Police mentioned only the 10 August report. However, after giving a bare-bones denial that effectively repeated what had already been carried in The Caravan’s report, the Delhi Police proceeded to respond to the 11 August report about the assault on the journalists. In it, the police falsely accused the journalists of taking pictures of the locals “without consent” and suggested that by doing so, they “may provoke those present and create Law and Order problems including communal problems.”

Prabhjit Singh is a contributing writer at The Caravan.

Shahid Tantray is a multimedia reporter at The Caravan. He tweets at @shahidtantray

Keywords: Delhi Violence Delhi Police press freedom Sexual Assault freedom of speech