Covering demolition drive at a slum, Mumbai journalist detained by police for 'instigating crowd'

Another journalist harassed

It’s been just a month when journalist Naveen Gupta, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Uttar Pradesh and another incident of police brutality against a journalist has come to the fore.

On Tuesday, December 26, Priyanka Borpujari, a Mumbai-based freelance journalist was arrested by the cops for allegedly instigating the crowd during an eviction drive in the slums of Vakola.

Priyanka often writes for The Hindu newspaper in India and several international publications.

The case:

Priyanka rushed to the slum when she received a phone call about the demolition from her domestic help who lives in the area. She began to take pictures from her cell phone, and this angered the police. After this, her phone was confiscated by the police, she was arrested under the Section 397/17, Section 353, 333, 141, 143, 114, 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for instigating crowd at the demolition site on charges of assaulting or using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his duty.

Here’s what the police said:

While talking to The Wire, a police officer, on the basis of anonymity said, “She was asked to identify herself. She refused to. Instead, she started to instigate the mob that had gathered at the spot of the demolition.” But later in the day, senior police inspector Kalpana Gadekar confirmed Priyanka’s arrest saying “a case has been registered.”

Inspector Gadekar also said FIRs were filed against five women, including Priyanka. “The women are allowed to go home. We will pursue the matter in court,” she added.

In a report published by NDTV, a statement issued by the Mumbai Police on the matter read, “While the encroachment department was taking action at the Ambedkarnagar slum the local residents clashed with BMC and police officers. A woman from the crowd bit lady police constable Swati Tondkar’s hand. The woman was being encouraged by a female journalist. Case has been registered under Section 397/17, Section 353, 333, 141, 143, 114, 34.”

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After several repeated requests, Priyanka was allowed to contact Peter Griffin, deputy resident editor at The Hindu in Mumbai. While talking to The Wire, Griffin told that “She informed me that she was assaulted and was taken to the police station. When I tried to get in touch with her later, her phone was not reachable.”

Meanwhile, Gautam Mengle, a friend of Priyanka posted an update on social media. He tweeted:

Priyanka’s version: 

While talking to HuffPost India, Priyanka told that “The police said I was apparently instigating protestors. I’ve been a journalist for many years now. I have covered human rights. There is no way I would incite violence. I am shocked that this allegation has been leveled against me. I remember clearly, I kept saying over and over again ‘mujhe apna kaam karne do’. Because that’s what journalists are supposed to do under such circumstances.”

“They were trying to intimidate me, they kept snatching my phone away, and when I bent down to pick it up, they pulled my shirt. I came home with two-three bruises and contusions. It was very shocking. It’s my personal phone and had my personal data on it,” she added.

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India among deadliest countries for journalists:

This case has brought the focus back on the dismal conditions journalists in India work in. According to the reports published by Amnesty International earlier in December, India is among the deadliest countries for journalists.

The report said that “In India, journalists, land rights activists, and those advocating the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, Dalits and Adivasis (tribal) are among those at risk of attack.”