The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) that a group of journalists were assaulted at the Assam University campus in Assam. It is alleged that the proctor of the university is behind the incident. The journalists claim that the security staff who attached the journalists at the behest of the proctor, destroyed their laptops, camera and other equipments. The journalists were covering a protest and demonstration by the students claiming adequate sanitation, drinking water and other basic amenities within the university. One of the journalist who was injured had to be admitted at the Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH) due to serious injuries he suffered in the incident. Four other journalists were treated at the primary health centre inside the university campus.
CASE NARRATIVE :
On 25 February 2011, the Proctor of the Assam University, Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury, Dean of Students Welfare, Mr. Ramendra Bhattacharjee, and the university Security Guardsa attacked a group of journalists inside the university campus at Silchar.
A group of agitating students reportedly rescued the injured journalists, namely Mr. Samin Sen Deka of News Time Assam, Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi of DY 365, Mr. Paplu Das and Mr. Anupam Mandal of Frontier TV News and Mr. Bibhuti Majumdar of NE TV. Among the injured scribes, Mr. Samin was sent to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH) due to the serious nature of his injury and four others were treated at the primary health centre inside the university campus.
It is reported that the hostel inmates of the university were striking and resorted to a blockade at the main gate of the university campus demanding immediate uninterrupted water supply at the hostel. Mr. Ratan Das, General Secretary of Assam University Students’ Council alleged that the drinking water crisis at the hostel was acute for a long time including the scarcity of toilets. And students had been demanding for a permanent solution for this. But the university authorities have reportedly paid no attention to the students’ demands.
The journalists were covering the student agitation that ensued. At about noon the proctor of the university and the Dean of Social Welfare arrived in the campus while the scribes were reporting news using their laptops. The proctor started hurling abuse at the journalists and demanded them to stop sending the footages. The journalists tried to talk to the proctor but the proctor reportedly lost his temper and started assaulting them. The security guards accompanying the proctor and the Dean joined in assaulting the journalists thereby damaging their laptops, camera and other communication equipments.
One of the injured journalist, Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi, alleges that Mr. Choudhury first kicked at a laptop and then the guards jumped on them. At the behest of the proctor and the Dean, the security guards kicked, punched and assaulted the journalists with sticks. Thereafter, they snatched laptops, cameras and other equipments and damaged them.
It is reported that the journalists have filed a complaint at Silchar Sadar Police Station, which is registered as Silchar PS Case No. 285/11. The accused Mr. Choudhury refused to make any comment regarding the assault while contacted for his version. Mr. Choudhury said “I am not authorised to say anything, let the scribes say whatever they wanted to”.
It is also reported that the university authorities subsequently prevented the distribution and reading of the Dainik Samayik Prasanga , a local daily, inside the university campus. Students and journalists claim that the conduct of the university authorities is, to say the least, authoritarian and undemocratic.
The students’ protest was reportedly peaceful and the demonstration for adequate sanitation, drinking water and other basic amenities not only reasonable, but the demand very urgent. The state government must take all necessary steps to guarantee the freedom of opinion and expression of the students and the journalists and also ensure their personal safety. The police must immediately record the statements of the victims and other witnesses in the incident without further delay, a legal requirement that they have not undertaken so far. Should there be any request from the victims for protection against further threat, the police must provide the same.
The information reveals a prima facie case of offences of ‘voluntarily causing grievous hurt’, ‘theft of equipments’ and ‘criminal intimidation’. This constitutes offenses under Sections 351, 378, 425, 503, 506 read with Sections 34 and 35 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Source : www.humanrights.asia