On Tuesday, three journalists from Caravan were assaulted in North East Delhi’s Subhash Mohalla neighbourhood as they were reporting on communal tension following the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5, the magazine said. After the ceremony, Caravan reported that a group of Hindu residents chanted communal slogans and, as part of this effort at intimidation, tied Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh flags on a gate leading to the Muslim-dominated section of the neighbourhood.
Later, as Muslim women tried to register a first information report about the incident, they allege that they were beaten, sexually assaulted and had their clothes torn by the police personnel at the Bhajanpura Police Station.
According an article in the magazine, Caravan reporters Prabhjit Singh, Shahid Tantray and a woman colleague, who has chosen to be unidentified, were following up on the story on Tuesday. As they were taking photos of the saffron flags strung up around the neighbourhood, the journalists were accosted by a crowd. When the crowd learnt that one of the reporters was Muslim, they began to beat him.
In his complaint, Singh said that had he not been present, “the mob led by that saffron-clad man would have lynched Shahid for his Muslim identity”.
In this melee, as the woman journalist tried to escape, she was surrounded by another group of young men, who allegedly took pictures and videos of her and made lewd comments. As she escaped from them, a middle-aged man confronted her. “He then opened his dhoti and exposed his genitals while looking at me,” she recounted. “He proceeded to shake his penis with his hand and started making objectionable and lewd expressions, while laughing at me.”
Two days after the attack, the Delhi Police were yet to even register an FIR.
This incident is shocking but hardly unexpected. It is clear that in North East Delhi, Hindutva mobs enjoy impunity, as was apparent during the riots in the area in February that left 53 people dead, hundreds injured and thousands dishoused. Not only did the police fail to check Hindu rioters, they even joined in with them in some instances, extensive reporting has shown.
As the police investigate the violence, they have received official instructions not cause “resentment among the Hindu community”. On Saturday, the Delhi High Court refused to quash the order. “No prejudice has been caused,” the court said as it heard as a petition claiming that the instructions reflected bias on the part of the police.
Tuesday’s case follows this pattern. Rather than hold the assailants responsible, the Delhi Police blamed the victims. ”How can you be so irresponsible?” said the head of the Bhajanpura police station to the journalists, a colleague recounted. “We brought peace with so much difficulty in our area. Riot had happened. Why don’t you ask us before going in there?”
Rule of law has long had a majoritarian bias in India. This is especially apparent during religious riots, when much of the justice apparatus gives free rein to majoritarian mobs. However, fear of the law is so absent for majoritarian mobs in India right now, they know they can even get away with assaulting journalists doing their job in the nation’s capital.