Sandeep Singh: India's Journalists Stand With Mandeep Punia

Indian journalists demonstrated outside the Delhi Police headquarters, introducing yet another dimension to the farmers' protest

Sandeep Singh
January 31, 2021 | 2.5 min. read

Mandeep Punia, the Indian journalist that was detained by Delhi Police on the evening of Saturday, January 30, at Singhu Border, has been remanded under judicial custody to Tihar Jail after being produced before a magistrate. Punia did not have any defense counsel present. 

Dharmender Singh, another journalist that was detained alongside Punia, was released on Sunday, January 31, after signing an undertaking.

Punia and Singh’s whereabouts were initially unknown after being picked up on Saturday. Members of the Punjab journalist fraternity, as well as some from the national media, gathered outside Alipur police station to investigate the whereabouts of Punia and Singh. Delhi Police at first refused to admit they had any information about Punia’s arrest.  

It would be much later that night when The Caravan’s political editor Hartosh Bal tweeted out that an FIR had been lodged against Punia.  Journalists waited inside and outside the Alipur police station until early 3:00 AM on Sunday morning demanding a copy of the FIR without any success. 

Punia’s lawyer would eventually get a copy of the FIR later that morning, while his family learned that Punia was being detained at the Samaypur Badli police station.  

Mandeep has been charged under Sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) r/w Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

According to the FIR, Punia was arrested for trying to circumvent police barricades.  However, In a viral video, he can be seen being violently dragged by police.  

Punia’s wife, Leela Shree Godara, said she learned of the FIR lodged against her husband around 4 AM on Sunday. She echoed common sentiments regarding the state of the free press in India, “whoever asks the government questions or tries to show the reality of what is happening, faces undue government pressure.”

Punia, an alumnus of one of India’s top journalism schools IIMC, has been covering the farmers’ protest since the onset. He is an independent journalist associated with The Caravan and Janpath, and his stories often hit top headlines. 

One of his earlier videos from Shahajanpur Border showing the police attacking the farmers and their tractors with tear gas shells had gone viral. It was even shared by senior congress leader Priyanka Gandhi. 

However, it was Punia’s Facebook live video regarding the January 29th goon attack on farmers at Singhu Border, which debunked the media’s narrative, that garnered the greatest attention.

Indian mainstream media had reported that “locals” had clashed with protesting farmers. However, Punia uncovered through detailed investigatory work, that the attackers were not locals, but in fact BJP workers. This was enough to put Punia on the government’s radar.

Since being picked up by the police Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Sawaraj party leader Yogendra Yadav, Samyukta Kisan Morcha, and others have publicly condemned Punia’s arrest. Punia’s ordeal has become a catalyst for greater public conversation on the state of India’s free press.

India’s journalist fraternity also came out again in support of Punia. On Sunday, Indian journalists demonstrated outside the Delhi Police headquarters as well as taking out a peace march from Delhi Police Headquarters to the Press Club of India, introducing yet another dimension to the farmers’ protest.

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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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