Leading TV anchor and former editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai. was in the news for having been involved in a scuffle with a crowd of pro-Modi supporters outside the Madison Square Garden, shortly before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address on September 28, during the latter's much publicised visit to the USA.
Conflicting versions of the incident, and the sequence of events leading up to it, had emerged. We had also carried an eye-witness account. Mr Sardesai who had kept quiet since the controversy, has now finally broken his silence on the subject with a post on his personal blog,. This is the full text of his statement:
My Statement on Madison Square Garden
Over the last week, several versions have appeared on an unfortunate incident at Madison Square Garden when Prime Minister was addressing the Indian American community.
Through this period, I have chosen to remain mainly silent because I didn't want to add to the noise that has prevented any rational explanation.
However, I do believe it is important to put events of the day in context. I along with my camera person was outside Madison Square garden about three hours before the prime minister was to arrive. Our aim was to capture the mood, which was joyous and excited. We were able to reflect much of this in our coverage.
I probably took more selfies on a single day than ever before with the crowd. Sadly, a small group of people began to heckle and abuse us. For a long while, I smiled and shrugged this off and even tried to strike up a conversation to ease the tension.
But after a while, the heckling reached a stage where we had to stop the broadcast as the crowd began to push and jostle. I was abused in terribly foul terms, my family was called names and I was kicked in the shins when my back was turned. The pushing and jostling continued even as I tried not to engage. I had gone to the event with hopes of goodwill instead the volley of name calling was unrelenting and shocking to me. My camera person and other witnesses would bear testimony to this.
A few moments later, I saw someone heckle me again and I lost my patience. I uttered an expletive and lunged at the person. It was an unfortunate response and one which I deeply regret. Whatever the provocation, there is no excuse for me to have got into a scuffle.
Over 26 years of journalism, I have endured a variety of situations but have always maintained my dignity and composure. No amount of provocation justifies a physical response.
I do, however, believe that surrounding, heckling and hurling vicious personalized abuse while a journalist is doing a professional job is also unacceptable. We journalists have a challenging job at the best of times and only ask to be allowed to perform our duties unhindered without intimidation.
The freedom of the press is an integral part of our democracy and should be respected by all.
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