This Article is From Jul 13, 2022

"Was Tear-Gassed, (Lankan) Protesters Helped Me Breathe": Reporter's Blog

July 13 - it was a big day for the people here. They expected that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would resign. Instead, they learnt he had fled the country and had taken a midnight flight to the Maldives.

The situation quickly deteriorated outside Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's office, where thousands of protesters demanded to know how President Rajapaksa was allowed to flee.

I was teargassed multiple times. As I kept reporting the ground situation for my OB, people pushed around me, shouting "Ranil, go! Gota, go!"

My colleague Kumar (the cameraperson) and I firmly remained in the thick of the action, our eyes stinging, tears streaming down. I couldn't breathe.


Some people stopped and carried me to safety. They gave me water, splashed water on my face and helped me breathe.

They helped me. Despite their anger, their desperation and their frustration, they took a moment.

When I asked them to take me to a hospital, they calmed me down. They said nothing will happen. We are used to this, they said.

Kumar was terrified as the furious crowds surged ahead. We even lost each other for a few frightening moments.

Then the protesters breached the barricades of parliament and security forces formed a human chain. It was almost a stampede-like situation as I felt the crush of protesters around me.


Suddenly, the crowd started buzzing with information that Ranil Wickremesinghe is hiding in one of the buildings near his private residence, which was burnt down on Saturday.

More running, stamping, complete chaos. When the protestors reached the spot and realised the PM isn't there, they changed tack.

It was shocking to see the crowds just running forth, not fearing the military, the Air Force. Never had I seen such a sight - the young and the old alike, from different groups, all coming together.

They had just one message. "Gota, go back!"

They had initially planned to lay siege to parliament. When they learnt that Ranil Wickremesinghe is the acting President, they started advancing to his office instead.

I knew then that the swelling crowd was getting out of control. More and more people kept joining in from all sides and they converged outside the Prime Minister's office. We spotted the massive security deployment outside and realized that the situation was about to get worse today.

Choppers flew overhead. After the non-stop teargassing, bullets were fired in the air.

But the protesters would not budge. Enough is enough - that is what the people felt, and it was obvious. They finally captured Ranil Wickremesinghe's office. He had earlier declared a state of emergency and ordered the arrest of rioters.

The PM had fortified himself with weapons and the military but the protesters were unfazed. They barged the gates and broke it down. They wanted him out - he was picked by Rajapaksa, the man who they say grossly mismanaged the Lankan economy, leading to severe hardships for millions.

For days, we had seen long queues for basic supplies, like fuel, and people at the breaking point.

(Sreeja MS is a Senior Correspondent at NDTV 24X7)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.