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Exclusive Interview: Right-Wing Disinfo & IB Officers - Survivor Speaks Out After Sending Legal Notice to CNN-News18
"My parents were shocked that their only daughter was being interrogated by the Intelligence Bureau (IB)"
June 11, 2021 | 5 min. Read | Original Reporting
As reported earlier today, CNN-News18 has been hit with a cease and desist legal action by a female survivor for falsely presenting the verbal sexual harassment she experienced at the Tikri Border site as physical molestation, for exposing her identity, and for other grave misrepresentations.
Legal notices are also being prepared to be sent out to OpIndia and other outlets that also falsely reported on the matter.
The survivor was never interviewed or asked by any of these outlets about her experience.
In a Baaz exclusive interview, she speaks on the record for the first time about what happened at Tikri, the resulting disinformation campaign from right-wing media, and how intelligence officers visited her at her home in an attempt to defame the Farmers’ Protest.
Sandeep Singh: What did you experience at Tikri Border?
Survivor: On April 24, I went to work at 5rivershospital at Tikri Border with Doctor Swaiman Singh’s team as I was passionate about generating vaccination and COVID-19 awareness. I was verbally harassed by Dr. Swaiman Singh’s volunteers. I informed Doctor Swaiman but his response was disappointing. He told me that it was not America. I waited for a month to post the story and then I posted it on Instagram.
Sandeep Singh: You were harassed verbally or physically?
Survivor: It was verbal harassment. Many right-wing propaganda websites have been trying to spread misinformation, misrepresenting the whole incident and sensationalizing the matter by talking about rape and molestation. But such incidents involve physical assault, and there was no physical assault here, only verbal harassment.
I had even made it clear in my testimony. I was verbally harassed in a way which amounts to sexual harassment. I was eve-teased and slut-shamed too. But I was neither raped nor molested. Contrary to claims of right-wing propaganda websites, I was not sexually violated.
Sandeep Singh: So you are saying you were not raped or molested?
Survivor: There was none of that.
Sandeep Singh: What do you plan to do against the news organization that ran the false story of rape and molestation at the Tikri Border site?
Survivor: First of all, We need to understand all of these websites and channels are close to the BJP government. I can’t even say that they are pursuing journalism. All of these channels are the spokespeople of the current regime. OpIndia published a ridiculous story about me. Farmers had burnt copies of Jagran. CNN-News18 is owned by Reliance. These websites and channels caused me mental trauma. I am sending legal notices to them.
Sandeep Singh: To who have you sent legal notices?
Survivor: I have already sent a legal notice to CNN-News18. I am going to send legal notices to OpIndia and other propaganda channels as well. Their claims are ridiculous. I won’t let them defame the Farmers’ Protest. I don’t want them to report my story as they have not been reporting correctly. Their reports are total propaganda, It amounts to misinformation and misrepresenting me and my case. I won’t let them have their way.
Sandeep Singh: Has anyone from the government or any other organization approach you?
Survivor: There was some spying done on me. On June 5, two women came to my home and started asking me questions about the morcha. They made it look like they were from the protest, but I quickly suspected they were Intelligence Bureau (IB) agents. Not only this, they tried to put words into my mouth asked me questions like why don’t you go and address the media and lodge a police complaint.
I told them that it’s our matter, we don’t need their help. At that time, I was panicking. I called farm leader Dr.Darshanpal and he helped me.
Sandeep Singh: What was your family’s reaction to how Intelligence Bureau (IB) agents visited your home?
Survivor: I had kept my identity under wraps. My father who is a government employee got a phone call. Apparently, new IB officers called retired IB officials and asked them questions about my family, and then they called my father in the morning. My father informed me that a police official wanted to talk to me but I was busy that day. I did not pay much heed to it.
When these women visited my home then it clicked in my mind that they might be from IB especially when I realized that they were not real protestors. My family was extremely shocked. Except for me, our entire family is of ordinary citizens. They don’t take much interest in the outside world. My parents were shocked that their only daughter was being interrogated by the IB.
Sandeep Singh: In our last Instagram live, you told me that there were some suspicious people outside your home in a car. Can you tell me about that?
Survivor: When I was talking to Dr. Darshanpal over the phone, those women left. I went outside my house and I saw a car parked a little distance from my home. There were four suspicious people in the car. As it was lockdown period, it was extremely uncanny to see those people. It did not look right to me. I think they had planned to come to our home but we had handled the situation calmly.
Sandeep Singh: You are saying that intelligence agents arrived at your home to use you as a tool to defame the Farmers’ Protest?
Survivor: Yes, That’s what I think. I could be wrong about it, but this is what I think.
Sandeep Singh: There are many farmers who are saying that you are defaming the movement and making a big deal out of nothing. Some even suggesting that you are associated with the RSS or BJP.
Survivor: I have broken friendships with people who support the BJP and the RSS. I am not part of the RSS. I have been regularly to the protest, from December to April. I will be bursting all the fake stories published by right-wing media.
Sandeep Singh: Do you think bringing this into public domain will defame the Farmers’ Protest?
Survivor: We have to understand that women coming out with their stories and asking for redressal mechanism to be put in place does not weaken the morcha. Me coming out with my story was important as I thought it is a democratic protest and perpetrators will be held accountable.
We had done a video with BBC Punjabi. Dr. Swaiman Singh commented that these are not real women protestors and that did not sit right with me. I was okay when he did not address my concerns but him trashing on other women protestors did not sit right with me. It made me think there might be many other women. So I decided to come out with my story so that a loud and clear message will be sent to everybody. I don’t think that protest will get defamed.
Sandeep Singh: What do you want now or what are your expectations?
Survivor: I consider that protest every site is safe overall. But I just want it to be more women friendly. We want a structure in place on which women can rely on. I and the other women protestors want SKM to take more preventive measures and put redressal mechanisms in place at all protest sites.
There should be gender sensitivity so that more women feel encouraged to join the protest. In MNC’s we work eight to nine hours a day for five days a week and we have Vishakha guidelines for us to take care of sexual harassment cases. That makes the workplace safer and we want to have the same for the protest.
At this protest, which has been going on for six months, women protestors need redressal mechanisms and certain structures in place where they can go in case something like this happens. We demand a functioning Internal Compliant Committee which was promised after a Bengal activist’s death. We are asking for helpline number for all protestors and a zero tolerance policy against cases of harassment and patriarchal oppression.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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