The Delhi Union of Journalists condemns the detention and questioning of journalist Kunal Shankar of the Frontline magazine in Hyderabad on January 17. Kunal was picked up from outside the Life Sciences Building within the premises of the Hyderabad Central University where he had gone to cover a protest to mark the first death anniversary of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.
He was surreptitiously taken out through the back gate, apparently to avoid the media assembled outside the main North Gate, to the Gachibowli Police station and questioned at length. It has to be underlined that Shankar had gone to the university as part of his journalistic duty. Restraining him from doing so, or intimidating him from carrying out his professional duties, amounts to curtailing the freedom of the press. Such attacks on the democratic rights of individuals cannot be tolerated.
Invoking of sections of the IPC pertaining to trespass is uncalled for, especially since Shankar had gained entry into the university premises by showing his valid ID. Surprisingly, Mr. Shankar has not even been provided with a copy of the complaint or the FIR that has been lodged against him, on the basis of which he was detained and questioned.
It needs no mention that police acted at the behest of powers that be who are out to stifle voices of dissent both within the university community and outside. The DUJ would like to warn that such attacks on the freedom of journalists will boomerang on those attempting to do so.
The DUJ demands that the complaint against Kunal Shankar be withdrawn immediately and measures be put in place for the media to gain access to events happening within the university campus. These need not be restricted to the University of Hyderabad alone, but should be extended to all such government, government-aided and private institutions of higher learning across the country.