A court in Delhi will pass orders on the bail petition of journalist Mandeep Punia on Tuesday, PTI reported. Punia, who is also a contributor to the Caravan magazine, was arrested on Saturday while covering the clashes at the farmers’ protest site at Singhu border.
Punia was accused of abusing a policeman on duty. His lawyer Akram Khan told Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Satvir Singh Lamba that he was merely carrying out his duty as a journalist.
The Delhi Police opposed Punia’s bail petition. The police told the court that he may try to instigate protestors and create disturbance at Singhu border. The court reserved its order on the bail petition after hearing arguments from both the sides.
On Sunday, the court had rejected Punia’s bail petition and sent him to judicial custody for 14 days.
Punia’s arrest has been widely criticised on social media. Earlier in the day, the Editors Guild of India demanded his release and called on the police to let journalists report without any fear. Meanwhile, journalists in Delhi staged a protest against his arrest.
Another journalist – Dharmender Singh from Online News India – was also taken into custody by the police but was released on Sunday morning.
Several states have also registered cases against journalists who reported that the protestor who died during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day was allegedly shot by the police.
The Uttar Pradesh Police was the first to file a first information report against eight people, including journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on January 28, for alleged misreporting and spreading disharmony. Three days later the state police filed an FIR against The Wire’s Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan.
On Saturday, Delhi Police became the fifth to file a case against Tharoor, Sardesai and five others for allegedly sharing unverified news about the protestor’s death. National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande, Qaumi Awaz editor Zafar Agha, The Caravan magazine founder Paresh Nath, Editor Anant Nath and Executive Editor Vinod K Jose were among those named in the case.
Situation at protest sites
The situation at Delhi’s border points, where farmers demanding the repeal of the agricultural laws have been camping for over two months, has been tense after the violence at the Republic Day tractor rally. The Centre has extended the ban on internet services near the Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders till Tuesday night.
On Friday, a group of around 200 people claiming to be local residents threw stones at farmers at the Singhu border and damaged their tents. Fact-checking website Alt News also identified Bharatiya Janata Party supporters among the mob. One of them was Aman Dabas, who is married to BJP municipal councillor Anju Kumar.
The farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day turned chaotic after a section of protestors deviated from the routes agreed to with the Delhi Police. One protestor was killed in the clashes. Prominent farmer unions and leaders distanced themselves from the violence, and blamed it on certain “anti-social elements”.
The Delhi Police have arrested 84 people and filed 38 first information reports filed so far in connection with the violence. Some farmers leaders have also been named in the FIRs.