At least ten journalists, including two from The Indian Express, and several students were assaulted Monday by lawyers and a Delhi BJP MLA inside and outside the Patiala House Courts where a sedition case against Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar was to be heard.
The attack took place before hearing in the case got underway. A large number of policemen present there remained mute spectators.
O P Sharma, BJP MLA from Vishwas Nagar, and his supporters pinned down CPI minority cell leader Ameeque Jamei and assaulted him outside the court complex.
BJP MLA OP Sharma beats up an unidentified man outside Delhi’s Patiala House court. pic.twitter.com/Scmm7sclNh
— ANI (@ANI_news) February 15, 2016
Inside, a group of lawyers entered the court room, raised slogans and told students, teachers and journalists to leave. But they refused, saying they had a right to attend the proceedings.
Announcing they were “patriots”, the men first targeted the students and teachers. Calling JNU a “den of anti-India elements and terrorists”, they attacked them and then turned on the journalists present in the room, punching and slapping them. Outside the court, another group of lawyers assaulted journalists and students.
Later, Sharma claimed he was roughed up in a melee where slogans like ‘Pakistan Zindabad, Hindustan Murdabad’ were shouted. Told there was footage of him assaulting Jamei, Sharma said, “Mein goli bhi maar deta agar bandook hoti. Koi hamari Ma ko gaali dega to kya usey maaroge nahin (I would have opened fire if I had a gun. If someone abuses our mother, won’t I beat him up).”
Waliullah Qadri, president of the CPI student arm AISF, said: “Before the proceedings started, some people in the attire of lawyers started hurling abuses at us. Suddenly, some of them, without provocation, started beating us. They pushed and beat us up. Even women students were not spared.”
Breaking:at least four people beaten up by advocates, snatch mobile phones @IndianExpress
— KAUNAIN SHERIFF (@kaunain_s) February 15, 2016
Witnesses said the group of men inside the Patiala House Courts premises also started demanding identity cards of people not dressed like lawyers. When journalists refused, the men accused them of being JNU supporters and assaulted them.
After the incident, nine journalists registered a complaint of physical assault at the Tilak Marg police station. They were: Kaunain Sheriff M and Alok Singh, The Indian Express; Amit Pandey, IBN 7; Akshay Deshmane, Economic Times; Amey Tirodkar, Maharashtra One; Sana Shakeel, The Times of India; Shree Nirash, Sahara Samay; Amiya Kushwaha, IANS; and, Azaan Javid, DNA. The complaint stated that Manu Shankar of Kairali News had been taken to hospital after the attack.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) February 15, 2016
Asked what action would be taken against those who attacked the media at Patiala House Courts, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said, “The law will take its own course. If anyone takes the law into their own hands, action will be taken against them in accordance with the law. I will speak to the Delhi Police Commissioner about this.”
Police Commissioner B S Bassi called the incidents in the court complex “scuffles” and said no major injuries were reported.
“There are allegations that certain press reporters, and some students belonging to JNU, were roughed up. We are looking into it. Excesses were committed from all sides, but they have been extremely minor in nature. To my knowledge, nobody has received serious injuries. They are more in the shape of scuffles,” Bassi told NDTV.
Later Monday, the Delhi court extended Kanhaiya Kumar’s police custody for another two days after in-camera proceedings.
The Bar Council of India (BCI) said it had taken serious note of the violence in the Patiala House Courts complex and decided to conduct an inquiry headed by a former High Court judge.
“BCI has taken the incident seriously and has decided to conduct an inquiry headed by a former High Court judge,” BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra told PTI. He said the BCI has decided to convene an emergency meeting at the earliest to finalise on the judge to probe the violence.