Two days after International Women’s Day, women journalists were allegedly attacked by Assam police when they went to cover the conflict between protesters and police at Assam-Mizoram Border area, due to a land dispute in the region.
Reportedly, Emmy Lawbei, a News18 journalist, was at the Assam-Mizoram Border to report the protest by the student wing of Mizoram, known as Mizoram Zirlai Pawl (MZP), to claim the disputed border area. She alleges that the massive police deployment hurled sticks on her and Catherine, an All India Radio journalists. Emmy suffered severe injuries on her back, upper arm and shoulders. She was taken to the district hospital in Barbai town near Kolasib district.
She expressed her anguish on social media
Hey ASSAM POLICEWe are Journalists who came to do ground reporting,we were unarmed,our only weapon was camera, pen and…
Posted by Emmy Ci Lawbei on Saturday, March 10, 2018
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Emmy said “I went to cover the agitation at Assam-Mizoram Border in Zopui. There was a heavily armed police contingent deployed by the administration. The Protestors were also carrying sticks. After some heated verbal exchange between the police and students, The Police rampantly charged beating everyone with batons. They also resort to firing to disperse the crowd. We were right there, unarmed with Pen/Mics and camera, we showed our IDs to the police, but they did not pay heed to our plea, and beat us black and blue”.
Trying to recover from the shocking incident, Emmy said: “The land turned into the war zone in a fraction of seconds, I was scared that Police may fire on us. Assam police have no respect for the journalists, how can police beat us for doing our duty? Also, how can the police baton charge the women.”
The President of Mizoram Journalists Association, Vanlalrema Marema told The Logical Indian “In two days Police have attacked six state government accredited journalists, brutally. On 9th March, three journalists went to the border area to cover the agitation. Despite the reporters displaying their ID Cards, police did not listen to them, and baton charged, leaving all three journalists with severe injuries.
Next day, three journalists including Emmy from News18 and Catherine from All India Radio went to cover the conflict at the Assam-Mizoram. One of their vehicles were damaged. One of them was hit on the head.” Vanlalrema further added, “I was shocked to see bruises on Emmy’s body when I took her to the hospital, We have also lodged the FIR against the Police barbarism on the reporters, we also demanded compensation from the government.”
Administration Denies Allegations
Deputy commissioner of Hailakandi District, Adil Khan, denied the charges of Police baton charged on the journalists. He said “The media reports on the journalist attack has no meaning, as they are misleading and falsely instigated by them. There is no proof that Police has baton charged them brutally.” “When journalists are wearing their press cards and holding their mics and camera, why would police attack them?”
However, The Logical Indian looked into the photos and the medical report, which reveals that Emmy suffered grievous injuries by beating. Also, in a video shot and sent to us by Emmy, it can be seen that the police is chasing her and hitting her brutally with baton sticks.
As per reports, tensions had been prevailing in the Halikandi-Kolasib regions over the boundary dispute. Reports of clashes have emerged between Assam police and Mizo Zarlai Pawl (MZP), a student body in Mizoram, claiming an area in the Kachurthal village in Hailakandi district.
According to Deputy Commissioner, Adil Khan “We have been receiving reports of illegal encroachments by some group of people in the forest range of Hailakandi district. We also wrote to the Kolasib district in Mizoram state that we can discuss the issue and find the solution to bring peace in the region. We have not received any response from the Kolasib administration. If we see Google Map or Survey of India maps, we would see that the region falls well within the Assam state boundaries. There is no question of a legal dispute. We also tried to pacify the group by explaining that we are no different countries, but they did not listen to us, and force constructed a structure in the forest area, which we dismantled, and imposed Section 144 to uphold law and order in the area.”
However, MZP claims that they were constructing a rest house on the land of Ex Mizoram Chief Minister late Ch Chhunga at Zopui in Kolasib district. When The Logical Indian tried to contact one of the leaders of MZP to understand their side, he did not answer the call.
Attacks on journalists in Assam
According to a state government report, 32 journalists were murdered in the last 32 years. Their families still await justice. In 2015, Several journalists took out to the streets of Guwahati to demand protection of journalists across the country.
The President of Mizoram Journalists Association, Marema says “The mainstream media does not entertain the plea by associations, whenever any journalist is attacked in the North-east. Whenever a fellow journalist is attacked, It is a moral duty of every media house to hear out to them and, continuously urge the government for justice”.
“We have registered an FIR in journalist attack case on March 10, and we will not sit back but keep demanding the protection of media in our country.” he added.
The Logical Indian urges the state government of Mizoram and Assam to carry out investigations into the incident of violent clashes when journalists were brutally attacked.