One of the most prominent courthouses in the country became the site of widespread and shocking violence on Monday, just as it was about to take up the matter of Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was charged with sedition after a group of students held an event on campus marking the third anniversary of the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru.
Students and journalists were beaten black and blue by lawyers at the Patiala House Court, who decided to take matters into their own hands by punishing those they considered traitors. Those who tried to take a video of the violence found their cell phones smashed. Reporters were told it was a small mercy that it was their phones that had been broken, not their bones. What was doubly shameful is that this took place even while there was considerable police presence at the complex.
The journalists were simply doing their job; they were there to report on a case. Both television and print journalists have a duty to bring the facts to the public. To call them anti-national and traitors and then use that premise to delete video footage and beat them up is despicable, to say the least. Reports say that journalists were chased around the complex, that the police did not intervene in any significant way and they were actually told earlier on to leave, sensing the angry mood in the courtroom.
Even taking into account the recent attacks on journalists, which have been getting more frequent and brazen, this has surely touched a new and shocking low. If the fourth estate is routinely targeted while doing its job, it speaks poorly for a country that boasts a robust and free press.
These attacks are often dismissed as occupational hazards or simply aberrations, but taking this lightly will set a dangerous precedent.
We must see this to its logical conclusion — the attackers must be punished and journalists must have justice.