Pune: A 24-year-old news reporter with the Marathi daily, Loksatta, was allegedly thrashed by an ACP while covering hunger strike at a tribal students' hostel in Manjari near Hadapsar on Saturday.
After the incident, Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla ordered an inquiry, which is being conducted by a DCP rank officer.
ACP Nilesh More of Wanavadi division is also accused of snatching the mobile phone of journalist Dnyanesh Bhukele for recording project officer Aayush Prasad's answers. More allegedly threatened to destroy his career and dragged him to Hadapsar police station, where he was made to sign an apology letter 'for asking questions in a wrong manner'.
In his statement submitted to police, Bhukele stated, "I had gone to the tribal students' hostel, run by the government, to cover the hunger strike by the students for their various demands. The project officer Prasad had come there for discussion with the students. While he was leaving, I asked him about the agitation. I was audio recording his answers on my phone. When Prasad saw this, he asked me to delete the recording. ACP More, who was present there, also asked me to delete the recording. I showed them my identity card and refused to delete it."
He further added, "Then ACP More and other policemen dragged me to the police car. They beat me up and snatched my phone. I kept requesting them to give back my phone and kept showing my identity card, but they said they would beat me again. While on the way to the police station, they again slapped me, hit me on hand. At the Hadapsar police station, ACP More threatened that he will register an FIR against me (for obstructing public servant from discharging official duty) and said he will destroy my career. I requested them to call my seniors. He then made me play the recording, forced me to delete it and returned my phone. He also said that if I do not want any case against me, I should write an apology letter saying 'I wrongly asked a question and recorded it'. Because I was very afraid, I wrote the letter. After that I was released."
Meanwhile, ACP More denied the allegations. "There were about 250 students protesting at the hostel. He was recording the conversation in a 'hidden way'. He didn't show us identity card earlier but only in the police van. It is wrong to say that he was beaten up. I wanted to ensure that the recording did not have anything sensitive, therefore I wanted to listen to it."
When asked about the apology letter, ACP More added, "The reporter was afraid that any police record will hamper his future career, therefore he offered to write the letter."
PUWJ condemn assault on journalist
The Pune Union of Working Journalists (PUWJ) has condemned the incident. PUWJ President Shailesh Kale said, "We would be raising the issue with the Police Commissioner on Monday and would demand strict action against ACP More." In a statement issued on Sunday, Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe has demanded action against ACP More.