Friday, Dec 09, 2022

'Cop Threatened To Rip Off My Beard': Journalist Detained, Released In UP

'Cop Threatened To Rip Off My Beard': Journalist Detained, Released In UP

'The police said they had evidence against me and I was a suspect in the conspiracy for the violence in protests,' Omar Rashid said.

Omar Rashid Source: Facebook

A journalist said he and his friend were detained in Lucknow on Friday in connection with the ongoing protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 

Journalist Omar Rashid of The Hindu said he was sitting at a restaurant with his friends when police in plainclothes picked him and his friend up, amd took them to Hazratganj police station, where he was allegedly interrogated and threatened.

"I showed them my Press card, Aadhaar card, Voted ID card, and even a card to show I am a government accredited journalist. But it did not matter," he said.

Rashid said the police asked him about his professional background and "emphasized on his Kashmiri background". 

"The police said they had evidence against me and I was a suspect in the conspiracy for the violence. You will be booked for criminal conspiracy under the IPC."

Rashid, who is from Kashmir and has a home in West Bengal's Darjeeling, said his identity perhaps had played a role in the incident. 

While being interrogated about other Kashmiris, Rashid said a policeman threatened to "cut his beard".

"After I said I didn't know the people he was asking about, he said he will take all my journalism out of me, rip off my beard," Rashid said, adding he was not physically harmed.

"It is not something unexpected. because of my identity, I would expect the communal bias and prejudice," Rashid said.

"My credentials were not enough to prove my identity. So that indicates a dangerous trend not just for me but anyone who has the name of a Muslim or so. It will be laughable if it was not so dangerous because I knew no charges could stand against me. But they did not care about any consequence," he added.

Rashid, who has been a journalist for eight years, said he had gone out on Friday for work when he found a restaurant with WiFi and was filing a story there as, otherwise, there was internet shutdown.

He was with four other people, including his friend Rabin Verma, at the restaurant, working, eating and chatting. Suddenly a group of people "barged in and started inquiring Robin who was sitting in a corner, working."

Rashid said the men had asked him his name as well but he refused to divulge any information at first as they were strangers. "When they kept asking questions, I showed them my ID, told them I work for the Hindu."

"They did not identify themselves as police but hinted at that. They kept telling me, CO (Circle Officer) Sahab wants to meet you," he said, adding he understood they were cops by looking at their vehicle and in the manner he spoke.

Rashid said him and his friend Verma, who is a social activist, were taken to a Jeep "to talk" but was detained from there and taken to Hazratganj police station. "When I tried to call someone for help, they snatched my phone and told me not to contact anyone or I will face consequences."

Rashid said his friend was beaten with a  "thick belt" and verbally abused there while he was questioned about his background, his link to Verma and the violence that took place the day before.

He said, later they were driven to the Sultanpuri police outpost where he was further questioned, threatened and taken photographs of like mugshots of "criminals" despite Rashid asserting repeatedly he did not know anything.

"They kept asking me about my background, about certain Kashmiris who are here and where I have hidden them--things I did not know," he said.

Verma was again beaten at Sultanpuri. "I could hear his wails and cries," said Rashid. 

"The Circle Officer of Hazratganj police station again interrogated me and lectured me on leftist ideology, China and what not! Then he asked me about my background; they were not convinced I was a journalist," he said. 

Eventually, a high-level phone call was made because somebody got to know Rashid was detained, he said, leading to the police letting him go.

"The information reached the chief minister's office and from there, reportedly, a call was made to the police. Then they apologised and said they picked me up due to some confusion," he said.

"Probably, I would have gotten beaten like my friend had the call not come," he said as a relief.

Verma has been arrested by the police, the scribe said.

An official from Hazratganj police station denied any such detention as Rashid had described, PTI reported.

Reacting to the incident, CPI(M) leader, Sitaram Yechury, tweeted: "The targeting and the muzzling of the press is a sign of this Govt's weakness and failure. But the truth cannot be hidden..."