Four Republic TV reporters were attacked, manhandled, heckled and abused inside Jamia for over four hours. We were gheraoed several times, threatened with hands warningly being put on our camera. I have faced intimidation before, but this was a new level of attack, a new level of violence. What shocked me was how minutely each word we spoke on TV was monitored, recorded, and then we were attacked. The precision with which we were thrown out, manhandled, the way the road was blocked and the masked men clearly showed the protest was a part of a larger planned conspiracy.
I landed at Jamia in the afternoon of January 13 to report, after a colleague Javed had been attacked. Walking towards gate 7 of Jamia I could see the road to Jamia was blocked from one side with men in masks eyeing everyone suspiciously, and 'Azadi' slogans filed the air. Glaring glances made me aware something was not quite right.
I carefully approached gate 15 to the Vice Chancellor's office. The first questions the Jamia guards asked me is to show my press id. My colleagues from inside the campus (who had been reporting) called my name and we walked in. Inside was a chaotic scene with protests all over. The VC was in her office and gheraoed by hundreds of her own students. Jamia students were protesting for major demands they wanted to be fulfilled. Following were the demands-
1. The VC should establish a proper communication channel with students for a proper discussion on issues
2. The exam dates rescheduling. According to the students, the exams are scheduled in a way that the students won't get time to raise their voice. The exams should be conducted the way they were before
3. FIR against the inaction of Delhi police
4. Jamia has faced a loss of Rs 2.5 cr that should be taken care of.
It was this update that I began my Live on TV with and ten seconds into it I saw, my colleague Ashutosh gheraoed. My reporter's instinct made me immediately tell my VJ to start focusing on visuals of my gheraoed colleague and I continued with my news report. Within 15 seconds, I was gheraoed. The students were listening to each word I spoke and further questioned me on live TV as to my reporting and channel name. In less than 60 seconds I was suddenly attacked, pushed, heckled and most intimidatingly gheraoed by a mob.
I saw my VJ Surendra Sah was having a tougher time than my colleague. As he was being pushed and his camera was being mishandled, I moved towards him and requested the mob to give us a chance to do our job.
The mob refused and pushed and shouted at us and further threateningly put their hands on my VJs back and firmly, continued slogans. They attacked us and demanded to know if we were from the Republic and then warned us that they will break our cameras. When we protested they showed us the Republic app and said we were watching Republic and you are speaking against us.
By now my Vj had been pushed out of gate 15 and Sumi and I followed him. The mob was in our face, shouting at us menacingly, and not believing in any chivalry to women. Once out of the gate, we started reporting on our ordeal, but these men had not had enough as they continued their tirade again, even sending security guards to have us thrown on to the roads. By now, we were four colleagues trying to report peacefully, but they gheraoed us several times and refused to let us move.
I took my VJ Surendra on-air and he showed how he was pushed out. Women protestors with placards were called and they started attacking my second VJ Yashpal and pushed him out of the street. We were made to leave forcefully. While sitting in our cabs the mob surrounded the cab and shouted slogans and refused to let our car move. Finally, we left.
I want to unearth the mystery of the masked men - if students, why the masks? If not, what's the motivation? Is mobilizing students, triggering violence, all a part of a conspiracy by motivated players? Time will tell.