Police watched, did nothing, during Chirala assault

BY GEETA SESHU| IN Media Freedom | 10/07/2017
A fact-finding committee report on the February attack on a journalist in Chirala town confirms that the police acted against him, not his attackers.
GEETA SESHU reports

The journalists assaulted in Chirala, ETV Videograb, Youtube.

 

The shocking attack on journalist N. Nagarjuna Reddy by relatives and supporters of Andhra MLA Amanchi Krishna Mohan in Chirala town of Prakasam district in broad daylight and in the presence of local police on February 2, 2017, was pre-planned and motivated by the reports of the journalist on alleged misdeeds of the politician, concluded a fact-finding committee report on the incident.

The journalist was prevailed upon while he was returning home with his son from the local market right in front of One Town Police Station. However, police remained mute spectators to the attack. The video of the chilling attack went viral, prompting protests on social media and demand for action from journalist organisations. Reddy was grievously wounded in the attack. Police took no action against his attackers and have, instead, filed a case under the Prevention of Atrocities Act against him.

Repeated attempts by the fact-finding team, comprising journalists, lawyers and academics, to contact the local police came to nought. Even senior police officers evaded the team. Till date, no arrests have been made in the case.

According to the team Reddy was a contributor to ‘Mattichetula Basa’,a monthly journal, and had been writing about the illegal activities of the politician. On Feburary 4, he had published a report entitled ‘Chirala ku Cheeda Purugu’, on some of these activities. This enraged the MLA and his supporters. The MLA’s brother A Srinivasa Rao alias Swamulu, and a mob of the supporters literally went on a rampage when they went looking for the journalist.

"Repeated attempts by the fact-finding team, comprising journalists, lawyers and academics, to contact the local police came to nought."

 

According to reports, Krishna Mohan was elected as a lone candidate of Navodayam Party in 2014 and he subsequently became an "associate" of the ruling Telugu Desam Party.

The mob or more than 150 persons first went to the clinic of former minister and doctor Paleti Rama Rao in the guise of searching for Reddy and created panic in the hospital. They had gathered with clear intention to attack and shouting loudly, reached the center of the town and having found Reddy there, assaulted him in front of the police station, the report said.

The fact-finding team had interviewed N Jyothi, the journalist’s wife. She said her husband had been writing against the MLA and his malpractices. He had been threatened with his life too. The police were mute spectators to this assault, she said. The fact-finding team met local politicians of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Congress parties, local citizens and others. They interviewed Gavini Srinivas TDP leader and President of Chirala Mandala Praja Parishath(MPP) and Leelanand Prasad, ward member of one village panchayat and a member of the Telugu Desam party, Dr Rama Rao and YSRCP leader Dr.V. Amruthapani.

Dr Rama Rao said that the Chirala M L A and his associates had been terrorizing people, foisting false cases and attacking political opponents. He was also threatened by the MLA’s associates when they attacked his clinic in search of Reddy. Dr Amruthapani affirmed that the journalist was attacked because he had been reporting about the MLA’s wrong-doings. He felt that police foisted a false case under the atrocities act against Nagarjuna Reddy. In contrast, the case filed against his assaulter A. Swamulu bore only nominal sections of the penal code. 

The team had also met the MLA’s supporters and interviewed and recorded statements of Sachineni Rambabu, Kakitha Prakash (Councillor), Mothadaka Ramesh Babu (Municipal Chairperson), P.V Tulasi (Advocate, M.P.T.C), Ms Suma, Kancharla Chitti Babu, Seelam Syam, Paidi Rajesh and Marpu Gregari. They alleged that Nagarjuna Reddy was not a journalist and on pretext of journalism, indulged in extortion and cheating. They also alleged that he had foisted false cases on some of them, issued casteist abuses on another and had made a false promise to marry a woman, later cheating her. 

"They alleged that Nagarjuna Reddy was not a journalist and on pretext of journalism, indulged in extortion and cheating."

 

The committee’s fact-finding report concluded that the MLA and his supporters had taken the law into their own hands by threatening and physically assaulting Reddy for whatever reason. Even if, as they said, he had misused his role as a journalist and taken advantage of his profession, they should have taken legal means available to them.

Stating that the assault took place in the presence of the police, the team recommended stringent action against the erring persons and suitable action by the police and the Government.

The executive committee of the Andhra Pradesh Working Journalists’ Federation (APWJF) constituted the fact-finding team. It comprised N.Srinivasa Rao, State Secretary, All India Lawyers Union (AILU), Sk.Syed Babu, State Committee Member, AILU, A. Jagannadha Rao, Former Joint Registrar, Acharya Nagarguna University, M. Koteswa Rao, Editor, Working Journalist, A. Amaraiah, Working Editor, Working Journalist, K. Srinivas, Vice President, APWJF, and K.Gangadhar, Secretary, APWJF.

 

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