Four years after facing an attack, Caravan staffers made the accused in FIR at Bhajanpura police station

The Caravan journalists Prabhjit Singh (left) and Shahid Tantray(right). Left: Courtesy Prabhjit Singh; Right: Bilal Kuchay
08 June, 2024

On 11 August 2020, a mob assaulted three journalists working with The Caravan—Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh and a woman journalist—in northeast Delhi’s Subhash Mohalla neighbourhood. The journalists were subjected to communal slurs and threatened with murder; the woman reporter was sexually harassed. One man who identified himself as “a general secretary” of the Bharatiya Janata Party had launched an attack on our staffers after learning Tantray’s Muslim identity.

The attack on our journalists lasted for an hour and a half. Once the police intervened, the journalists were taken to Bhajanpura police station, where they filed detailed complaints. Our account of the ordeal is available on our website, alongside the detailed complaints from our staffers, and has also been reported widely in national and international media.

Close to four years later, in May 2024, the Bhajanpura police station sent a notice to Prabhjit Singh to join an investigation related to the incident. The notice was pasted to Singh’s former residence. After he contacted the police, we learnt that this was not in relation to our FIR, but one in which the three journalists were named and accused under serious sections such as 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) and 153A (promoting communal enmity).

We were not given a certified copy of the FIR against our staffers, citing its sensitive nature. We have learnt that the FIR against our staffers was lodged less than an hour before our FIR on the same day in 2020. It is worth noting here that although our complaints were filed on the day of the incident itself, the police did not register our FIR until three days later, on 14 August 2020. The police has informed us that our FIR is being considered a “counter FIR.”

These are shocking and worrying developments. The allegations in the FIR are absolutely false and fabricated. For four years, neither The Caravan nor the named journalists were ever informed of any such FIR.

The investigation in our FIR, which detailed the attack on our staffers, remains pending. Neither were our reporters asked to join the investigation in that case, nor were we informed of the status of progress, for four years. By contrast, the alleged case against our reporters has been duly put together.

It is also extremely concerning that our reporters, who were reporting on accusations against the police by a Delhi violence complainant, are now facing an FIR at the same police station. At the time they were attacked, the three journalists were conducting follow-up reporting on an article by Singh and Tantray. The article was centred on a Muslim woman who had accused police officials at the Bhajanpura police station of beating and sexually assaulting her and her 17-year-old daughter a few days earlier. The woman had approached the police in early August 2020, after communal tensions arose in the area following the foundation-stone-laying ceremony of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Earlier that year, the woman in question had also filed a complaint regarding the Delhi violence of February 2020. The conduct of the police during the violence, especially towards Muslims, has come under serious question.

Put together, these details make clear that the naming of The Caravan’s journalists in a false and fabricated case is an attempt to muzzle their reporting. This is an outright attack on press freedom and a direct violation of the freedom of speech and expression.

We have joined the investigation and intend to comply fully with the due process of law. We will exercise our rights under the law to challenge these false accusations and have them dismissed.