Reporters assaulted at Assam University, Silchar for covering students’ agitation


Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has received information regarding an incident of assault on reporters at the Assam University campus at Silchar on 25 February 2011. It is reported that the assault was carried out by the security guards led by the proctor of the university Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury and dean, students welfare Mr. Ramendu Bhattacharjee allegedly for covering agitation of the students. The scribes sustained grievous injuries and their laptops and cameras were snatched away and destroyed.

According to information received by the BHRPC, a group of reporters and cameramen mainly belonging to Guwahati-based private television channels (namely NE TV, News Time Assam, DY365 and Frontier TV News) reached the university campus with their laptops, cameras and other equipments at about 12 noon on 25 February to report demonstration of students.

Hostel boarders of the university were observing hunger strike and resorted to blockade at the main gate of the campus demanding immediate uninterrupted water supply. Ratan Das, general secretary of Assam University Students’ Council told that drinking water crisis in the hostel was acute for a long time. Even there was scarcity of toilets. Students had been demanding for permanent solution, but the authority turned a deaf ear to it, he alleged.

According to the information, reporters had taken footage of the students’ agitation before they were attacked. At about 12.30 pm the proctor of the university Mr. Manabendra  Dutta Choudhury and Dean, Students Welfare Mr. Ramendu Bhattacharjee arrived while the scribes were sending the news through their laptops. The proctor started hurling verbal abuse at the journalists and demanded them to stop sending the footages. The journalists tried to talk to him, but the proctor got furious and started beating them. The security guards accompanying him also joined him.

According to Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi (Arup), one of the injured reporters, Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury first kicked at a laptop and then the guards jumped on them. At the behest of the proctor and the dean, the security guards kicked, punched and beat the journalists mercilessly. They snatched 3 laptops and 2 cameras destroyed them.

A group of agitating students rescued the injured scribes. Mr. Samin Sen Deka of News Time Assam, Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi (Arup) of DY 365, Mr. Paplu Das and Mr. Anupam Mandal of Frontier TV News, and Mr. Bibhuti Majumdar of NE TV sustained injuries. Mr. Samin Sen Deka was sent to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital due to the serious nature of his injury and others were treated at the primary health centre at the university campus.

The reporters later filed a complaint at Silchar Sadar Police Station, which is registered as Silchar PS Case No. 285/11. The complaint named Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury and Mr. Ramendu Bhattacharjee and security guards as accused.

It is also reported that the university authority did not allow the entry and reading of the Dainik Samayik Prasanga, a local daily newspaper inside the campus. This is an undemocratic and authoritarian attempt at stopping outside information from coming to the hostel boarders of the university coupled with the attempt of stopping flow of information from the university as evident from the assault on the reporters. It seems that the authority of the university are flouting law of the land and behaving as law unto themselves.

BHRPC thinks that the information reveals a prima facie case of offences of ‘voluntarily causing grievous hurt’, ‘theft of equipments’ and ‘criminal intimidation’ by several persons under section 35, 379 and 506 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The information also reveals a prima facie case of violations of fundamental rights of the reporters to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution of India and the right to practice profession of one’s choice guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (g) of the constitution.

It is also a prima facie case of violations of human right ‘to freedom of opinion and expression’ as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the general assembly of the United Nations in 1948. The right violated in this case is also guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 to which India is a state party. This covenant including this Article is a part of the Human Rights Protection Act, 1993 by virtue of section 2 (1) (d).

BHRPC also observes that the conduct of the university authority vis-a-vis the grievances of the students and their peaceful protest is, to say the least, authoritarian and undemocratic. The students were staging peaceful protest and demonstration for adequate sanitary facility, adequate supply of drinking water and other such basic amenities.

BHRPC wrote to the prime minister of India urging his personal intervention for ensuring a prompt and objective investigation into the incident, adequate security for the victims and witnesses, adequate compensation for the victims, effective redress to the students of the university. BHRPC also filed a complaint at the National Human Rights Commission.

A. Names and addresses of the alleged victims:

1. Mr. Samin Sen Deka (40yrs.), News Burea, Silchar, News Time Assam

S/o. Lt. Saneshar Deka

Jail Road, Near Normal School, Silchar -3, Assam

2. Bibhuti Mazumder, Silchar Correspondent, NE TV

S/o. Johorlal Mazumder

Khatal Road, Silchar, Assam

3. Anath Bandhu Nandi (Arup), Cameraman, Dy 365

S/o Lt. Bagaban Chandra Nandi

Radamadav Road, Silchar-1, Assam

4. Anupam Mandal, Reporter, Frontier TV

S/o. N.K. Mandal

Nataji Sarani, Batartal, Meherpur, Silchar-15, Assam

5. Paplu Das, Cameraman, Frontier TV

S/o Lt. Priti Bushan Das

Nikunja Bhawan opposite Drugasankar Patsala

Ambicapatty, Silchar-4, Assam

B. Names and addresses of the alleged perpetrators/violators:

1. Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury,

Proctor, Assam University, Silchar

Dargakona, Cachar, Assam

2. Ramendu Bhattacharjee,

Dean, Students Welfare,

Assam University, Silchar

Dargakona, Cachar, Assam

3. Security guards working at the university and assaulted the reporters

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