I Was Attacked by Jayalalithaa's Supporters

Published: September 28, 2014 00:01 IST
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(Uma Sudhir is Resident Editor, NDTV)

The mood outside Poes Garden, Jayalalitha's Chennai residence, changed quite dramatically from the morning to afternoon when reports started coming in that Jayalalithaa may not walk out a free woman from the Bangalore court room.

In the morning, trays and boxes of laddoos and crackers for celebration had been brought in, hoping rather than anticipating, that they would be put to good use. Everyone was keen to be seen and noticed as people concerned about Amma.

But by afternoon, it was angry slogans and effigy-burning.  And anyone who said anything at all that was not palatable to the chief minister's supporters was treated as fair game.

That's how my crew and I were targeted immediately after we finished a live report in Hindi this evening for our channel NDTV India. I had spoken in Hindi and a man aggressively asked me why I was reporting in Hindi. "Do you presume we don't know the language? How dare you say she will go to jail, how dare you talk about a succession plan? You are a supporter of Narendra Modi," were some of the accusations hurtled at me. Totally baseless since we were reporting on the verdict against Jayalalithaa in a professional and objective manner.

I tried to explain and calm him down but before we knew it, he and others had attacked us. Our camera was flung on the ground, our tripod was broken, the light stand was tossed aside. A couple of other crews and bystanders who tried to come to our defense and help were also targeted.

The man who had started the argument brought some woman cadres then to point me out on an attempt to urge them to presumably take me on and attack me.

Next I knew our camera was broken. A brick had been flung at our OB van-it narrowly missed our OB van engineer. All OB vans quickly moved out and so did all the camera crews.

Local reporters and camera crew shared with is that it is in an atmosphere of fear that they always operate in. Anything not liked by someone in power could mean the reporter would not just be spoken to or ticked off, he/she would be 'taught a lesson'.

The worst part is the policemen deployed there could not prevent the attack though they did intervene to ensure nothing worse happened and allowed us and other media crew to 'escape' the place safely.

All through the afternoon and evening, trouble was brewing but there was no effort to disperse the crowd and stop them from behaving in an aggressive, lumpen manner.

Reporters were telling me later in the evening that 'leaders' and cadre were calling up and asking for their names to be mentioned in various incidents of stone-throwing and other incidents, hoping to be recognised and rewarded for their 'loyalty'.

The worst part is that in a state where all appointments from the top to the lowest level of a constable are said to be made based on loyalty, I am being told 'what's the point in lodging a police complaint?'

At least the lesson for the day, given the verdict, should have been that no one is above the law?



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