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Why Chhattisgarh Journalists Are Wearing Helmets While Interviewing BJP Leaders

It's both a symbolic gesture and a practical move — they don't want to get hurt.

Outside the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in Raipur, a handful of helmet-clad people shoving mics and questions into the faces of the saffron party leaders is no longer an unusual sight. These journalists in helmets want to drive a message home to the BJP: you don’t mess with them. At the same time, this symbolic gesture is also a pragmatic one — they are concerned about their safety.

On Saturday, journalist Suman Pandey, who works for The Voices, a digital news portal, was attacked by BJP supporters and members when he was recording a meeting of the BJP’s district-level leaders in Raipur. Party supporters allegedly jumped on him and thrashed him leaving him with head injuries.

According to an NDTV report, four BJP functionaries, including the party’s Raipur chief Rajeev Agarwal, have been arrested based on a complaint filed by the journalist. “I was recording a video of the meeting on my mobile phone when suddenly BJP leaders started arguing among themselves over some issue. Rajeev Agarwal and another person, Utkarsh Trivedi, told me to delete the video of the scuffle, which I refused. They then started hitting me and forcefully deleted the video,” Pandey said. He added, “I was made to sit inside the meeting room for about 20 minutes. When I came out, I told other journalists about the incident.”

Members of Pandey’s fraternity, following the incident, reached the BJP office, alerted the police and staged a protest demanding the arrest of those who allegedly thrashed Pandey. Chhattisgarh BJP spokesperson Sacchidanand Upasane, who was present in the meeting, said the party has apologised to Pandey, adding it was a closed-door meeting to discuss the defeat in recent assembly elections and journalists were asked to leave the meeting room after taking initial footage. “Party leaders and workers were also asked to keep their mobile switched off,” he said.

Of course, even such a warning, should it be true, does not qualify one to assault someone. The BJP, however, in the last four-and-a-half years has not been known to be kind to the press. BJP supporters and trolls have attacked and continue to attack journalists on social media as well. A physical attack is still a new low for the party.

Also read: Jailed Journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem’s Wife Demands His immediate Release

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