More than half-a-dozen journalists and camera persons were allegedly assaulted and their equipment damaged by policemen inside the premises of Sitarampur Dera police station in Jamshedpur district late last night.
Jamshedpur Senior Superintendent of Police Anoop T. Matthew said: “Four policemen have been suspended with immediate effect and the OC, Jayant Tirkey, has been removed. Further action would be taken, as per inquiry report of the City SP.”
The assault took place after Cabinet Minister Saryu Rai, who had come to the police station in connection with alleged illegal detention of a man, left the place and the journalists were trying to get pictures of the man in the lock-up. The man in question was released late last night following the entire episode.
The Jharkhand Journalist Association (JJA), a constituent of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ), has taken up the matter with the top government functionaries. They will also be meeting the chief minister on the issue.
“We met the Director General of Police and have urged him to get the matter inquired into by an officer of the Inspector General level. When the assault took place, senior area officials were present. Why did they not stop the policemen? Further, an FIR should be lodged against the policemen involved in the assault, as there was absolutely no provocation,” said Shah Nawaz, state convenor of JJA.
Among the journalists who sustained injuries were Brajesh Singh, Mukesh, Manmohan, Anoop Mishra, Imtiyaz and Sudarshan Sharma.
On Sunday, one Nikhar Sablok, who is into real estate and is considered close to the BJP, was detained in the police lock-up in Sitarampur Dera police station late in the evening. Sablok’s father got in touch with state Cabinet Minister Saryu Rai telling him that he had been illegally detained in the police lock-up.
The Minister, an MLA from Jamshedpur (West), tried to get information at the police station, but there was no response. The officer-in-charge allegedly left the police station after realising that the Minister was inquiring about the detention.
“Since I was participating in Sarhul festival programme nearby, I decided to find out what the matter was. At the police station, I could not find any senior officer who could answer my queries. After informing top officials and also the SSP, I left the place. Later, I came to know that journalists have been assaulted. This is not acceptable at all,” Rai told The Indian Express. He also visited the injured journalists at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
Further, Rai said that he would write to the Home Secretary apprising him of the manner in which the police were behaving. “There has to be objectivity and a professional approach among the police,” said Rai.
Earlier, on April 8, Sablok had got an FIR registered against Pavan Agrawal, secretary in the Jamshedpur district unit of the BJP. According to BJP sources, Agrawal was understood to be close to the chief minister, who is also an MLA from Jamshedpur (East).
Sablok had accused Agrawal of threatening and demanding Rs 5 lakh as extortion money in connection with a project.
A day later, an FIR was registered against Sablok by a member from the Scheduled Caste, accusing him of using abusive language and casteist remarks.
The police said that Sablok was detained in connection with the SC/ST Act case registered against him. However, he was released following the entire episode in the night itself.
“The action has been taken against the policemen in connection with the assault on journalists. It appears that the whole thing took place after some initial argument. We are taking action against the culprits. The investigations in the two cases, one registered against Sablok and the other against Agrawal are still going on,” said Matthew.