Four workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Raipur were arrested late Saturday for allegedly assaulting a journalist who shot footage of their heated arguments during a review meeting, PTI reported. The journalist, Suman Pandey, had filed a case against them after they attacked him and forced him to delete the video clip. He suffered minor head injuries.
The four accused include the party’s district chief Rajeev Agarwal. The other workers were identified as Vijay Vyas, Utkarsh Trivedi and Deena Dongre – all local office-bearers of the BJP. They were later released on a bail bond.
The accused were booked under Sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
Local journalists had staged a protest outside the BJP office in Raipur late on Saturday to seek their arrest. They had alleged that members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing, had threatened them. They said they would protest till the BJP workers who had attacked Pandey were sacked.
Senior BJP leader Brijmohan Agrawal and state party chief Dharamvir Kaushik met the protesting journalists around 2.30 am on Sunday and assured them that a notice would be served to the four and a report sent to the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. The journalists called off their protest after this.
“There were a lot of arguments between the BJP cadre, even some pushing and shoving,” an unidentified journalist who was covering the event told The Indian Express. “Pandey, a reporter working for web portal Voices.in, was filming this, doing his job. BJP members surrounded him, hit him, and refused to let him leave till he deleted the footage.”
Pandey told PTI that he was recording a video of the meeting, “when suddenly BJP leaders started manhandling each other over some matter”.
“Meanwhile, Rajeev Agarwal and another person, Utkarsh Trivedi, asked me to delete the video of the scuffle, which I refused,” Pandey added. “They then started hitting me and forcefully deleted the video.”
State BJP spokesperson Sacchidanand Upasane said the party had asked media personnel to leave the room after they had shot the initial footage of the meeting. “On finding a man recording the video of meeting, he was told to stop it and asked to delete the footage,” Upasane said. He claimed there was a “minor scuffle” between Pandey and the BJP workers, after which they apologised to the journalist.
Chhattisgarh Health and Family Welfare Minister TS Singh Deo called the incident unfortunate, and demanded action against those responsible. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said the government would soon introduce a journalists’ safety bill.