“This incident won’t deter me”: Statement of Caravan’s woman journalist on attack

A Kashmiri journalist holding his camera and placard during the protest in Srinagar in January 2019. On 11 August 2020, three journalists working with The Caravan—Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh and a woman journalist—were beaten, subjected to communal slurs, threatened with murder, and sexually harassed, while reporting in Subhash Mohalla, in northeast Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood. Photo by Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
13 August, 2020

On the afternoon of 11 August, a mob assaulted three journalists working with The Caravan—Shahid Tantray, Prabhjit Singh and a woman journalist—in Subhash Mohalla, in northeast Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood. They were taking photographs of saffron flags that had been tied in the area, when some men approached them and told them to stop. The mob launched their attack upon realising that Tantray was Muslim. For around an hour and a half, the journalists were under attack, subjected to communal slurs, threatened with murder and sexually harassed.

The woman journalist was attempting to get away from the attack when a middle-aged man sexually harassed her. He “opened his dhoti and exposed his genitals while looking at me. He proceeded to shake his penis with his hand and started making objectionable and lewd expressions, while laughing at me,” she later wrote in a detailed complaint to the police. After running away from the man, she was asking for directions to the Bhajanpura police station, where her colleagues were also going. The mob found her again and beat her. The Delhi police has still not registered an FIR in the two complaints that the journalists had filed at the station. To ensure the safety of the woman journalist, The Caravan is concealing her identity.

The three journalists were conducting follow-up reporting on a recent article by Prabhjit and Tantray about a Delhi violence complainant. The complainant, Shanno, had accused police officials at the Bhajanpura police station of beating and sexually assaulting her and her 17-year-old daughter on the night of 8 August. 

On the evening of 13 August, the Press Club of India hosted a meeting regarding the attack, which was streamed on Twitter and Facebook. The author and activist Arundhati Roy, the advocate Prashant Bhushan, the Press Club of India’s president Anand Sahay and The Caravan’s political editor Hartosh Singh Bal addressed the meeting. Prabhjit and Tantray recounted their ordeal. The woman journalist wrote a statement, which was read out. Her statement is reproduced below.

First, I want to congratulate my colleagues Shahid and Prabhjit for their relentless courage and determination in pursuing stories on the anti-Muslim violence in northeast Delhi. I want to say that I am proud and will always be proud of being a part of The Caravan magazine. 

What I went through on 11 August is the most traumatising experience of my life, but here, I want to highlight the courage of the Muslims of northeast Delhi, especially Shanno and her family, whose story we were reporting. 

While interviewing these women about how the police molested them at the Bhajanpura police station, they recounted the ordeal they had to face from the locals, police and media. Their courage in facing all this was an inspiration. Shanno and her daughter are an inspiration for me. 

Shanno’s young daughter seemed exhausted but she was fearless when we asked if she would speak on record. Her eyes were bright and with a faint smile she said, “I am not afraid of speaking out the truth.” There is nothing more courageous than this. Many Muslim women who reside in north Ghonda came out to help me and bravely asked the Hindu mob to back off as it was attacking me.  

I urge all the journalists out there, who are not afraid of taking on this increasingly fascist government, to report more on Muslims of northeast Delhi and document their bravery.  I also thank my editors and colleagues who are supportive and courageous and from whom I learned  good journalism, at a time when the media is in such a dark state in this country. 

Shanno kept repeating the word “insaaf” [justice] to us with tears in her eyes. It is still reverberating in my ears. As the media, we should do our duties fearlessly and pledge our solidarity to the brave women who are fighting for justice. This incident won’t deter me from pursuing many more stories like this and I am not afraid to do so. I again thank my friends, colleagues, editors, and all who stood by us.