Raisina Hill out of bounds for protesters

Raisina Hill out of bounds for protesters

A week after the gang-rape of a physiotherapist shamed the nation, the government used a combination of brute force and put Raisina Hill out of bounds for not only protesters but also journalists raising serious doubts over its intentions to gag the media.

Roads leading to key ministries housed in North Block and South Block like the Ministry of Finance, Home, External Affairs, Defence, Prime Minister’s Office including Rail Bhavan and Udyog Bhavan were blocked to keep protesters out of bounds.

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Saturday defended the police crackdown on the protesters. “Rashtrapati Bhavan is a prestigious venue and it reflects the image of the nation. Had they (protesters)  gone there, you would have criticised me. That is why we are very strict,” he said, adding that hooliganism also led to the police action.

But, Shinde, who was busy giving interviews to the media did not explain why the government did not allow journalists to visit ministries they routinely covered raising doubts of a ploy to gag the media.

Police stopped reporters of this newspaper who tried to walk up to North Block, South Block and towards Akbar road through Rafi Marg as the two outlets to the roundabout at Rail Bhavan were barricaded.  

When questioned why journalists despite showing their identity cards were not being allowed, security personnel said that senior officers had instructed them against allowing anyone except office-bearers of the ministries concerned. Attempts to make them understand that even journalists have a duty towards the nation and its people fell on deaf ears.

The Press Club of  India and the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) expressed outrage at the unprovoked and uncalled for police action on journalists on Sunday. The NBA urged the government to ensure that the media is allowed to perform their duty in a “free and fearless manner.”

“The fact that water cannons were used at specific media locations and journalists with mikes in their hands were injured suggests that the media was targeted. Any police action against our reporters is therefore unacceptable and condemned in no uncertain terms. It would be a sad day for the country, and democracy, if any attempt is made to muzzle the media,” NBA said.

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