The Press Club of India on Tuesday called the attack on journalists at a Hindutva event in Delhi as “highly deplorable”.

Seven journalists were targeted by a mob at the event, a “Hindu mahapanchayat”, in the city’s Burari Grounds on April 3. Five of them had to be taken away by the police to protect them from the mob. Four of the five journalists who were escorted away by the police were Muslims and were targeted allegedly after being asked their religious identity.

Meer Faisal of The Hindustan Gazette, photojournalist Md Meharban and Newslaundry journalists, Shivangi Saxena and Ronak Bhat, were assaulted at the event. Arbab Ali, who was covering the event for Article 14, Meghnad Bose, a reporter at The Quint and another journalist who did not wish to be identified, were verbally abused.

In a statement on Tuesday, the journalists’ association demanded the immediate arrest of the “hooligans with communal overtones” who attacked the media persons and a judicial inquiry to look into the sequence of events leading to the “barbaric assault”.

“It seemingly smacks of pre-conceived nefarious designs of communal hooligans to force media persons to follow their hidden agenda,” the statement added. “Going by the series of attacks on media persons in the recent past, it could be inferred that these people are hellbent on gagging the press in its entirety.”

The Press Club of India also opined that the Delhi Police stood by as a “mute spectator” and did not arrest the culprits involved in the attack against the media persons.

In videos of the event from Burari area, Hindutva supremacists Yati Narsinghanand and Suresh Chavhanke could be seen making inflammatory speeches targeting Muslims. The Delhi Police has said that two cases have been registered in connection with the manhandling of the journalists.

On Monday, the police also filed a case against Faisal and Article 14 for their tweets about the attack under Section 505 (2) of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.

On UP exam paper leak

The journalists’ association also expressed concern about the arrest of three local journalists who had exposed the leak of Uttar Pradesh Board Class 12 examination papers. The journalists, identified as Ajit Ojha, Digvijay Singh and Manoj Gupta, were arrested on April 1.

The Press Club of India called their arrest “arbitrary” and condemned the Ballia administration.

On March 30, Uttar Pradesh Board’s Class 12 examination for English was cancelled in 24 of the state’s 75 districts after the question paper got leaked. On March 29, the first day of the exams itself, the answer key for the Sanskrit question paper of Class 10 had also been leaked.

On April 1, Digvijay Singh, associated with Hindi daily Amar Ujala, had claimed that he was held for not revealing his source to the police.

The Press Council on Tuesday called for the immediate release of the arrested journalists and action against those involved in the examination paper leak.

“Of late, it has been observed that the Uttar Pradesh government is going hammer and tongs to threaten and actually arrest those media persons who don’t toe the line of government thinking over the issue of policy measures,” said the statement.

It added that the Uttar Pradesh Police and bureaucrats are “sycophant and more than eager” to arrest media persons at the first opportunity available, in order to please higher authorities.

Chief Minister Adityanath has directed officials to take stringent actions, including charging the accused persons under the stringent National Security Act.