Journalist Mandeep Punia, who was arrested by police from a farmers’ protest on the outskirts of Delhi and released on bail on Tuesday, said he had not been released from custody and would return to report “people persecuted by the authorities”.
An NDTV interview with a reporter on Thursday garnered more than a million views in 24 hours on YouTube, showing the likes of Mr Punia, who came out of prison writing “notes” on his body to write a story for those he met inside.
A 43-year-old freelance journalist who contributed to The Caravan newspaper among others, described in detail how he was arrested on Saturday, beaten and falsely accused of beating and stopping police.
“I was standing next to obstacles at a farmers’ protest camp in Singhu. I was filming a video of my report. Some immigrant workers tried to pass but the police kept harassing them. So, I was recording the problems the immigrant workers were facing,” he said.
That’s when, he said, police first pulled another journalist Dharmendra Singh standing next to him. He also said that during the protest, one of them shouted ‘Mandeep Punia. Take him away and that they kept beating him with sticks and harassing him.
“I was taken to a tent and beaten up. They broke my microscopic camera and my Samsung phone. They lost my ID,” said Mr Punia.
He said that then they put him in a white Scorpio and took me to three police stations. At 2 in the morning, later he was taken for a medical examination. The police even tried to persuade the doctor to say ‘This case involves staff. So please take care of it’. He was taken to the cable station at 3am.
“I think the police knew my name because I was talking to the police all day to take their speeches. Also, I reported the stone-throwing to farmers the previous day. I had reported how the people who attacked the farmers had links to the BJP,” Mr Punia said.
In prison, a journalist was given a warm welcome by other inmates who were not farmers. “Everyone treated me very well in prison. All the prisoners seemed to know my name there. They knew the police had beaten me,” he said.
“Coming in, I thought I was the victim of the system. But when I saw that these people in prison were the biggest victims. I understood how important it is to report people who have been persecuted by those in power. Punia.
That’s why he said that he set up a pen and started writing notes on his body. He also said that he wrote down the names of the farmers and their accounts. He even met a 70-year-old gurdwara priest from the village of Haryana’s Prime Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
“I will definitely go back to the protests because it is very important to report on these people being persecuted by those in power. I will go back and report on the farmers’ protest with the sympathy you need,” Mr Punia said.
The arrest of Mandeep Punia over the weekend coincided with a police crackdown on farmers in two months on the outskirts of Delhi in protest of the centre’s new agricultural rules, fueled by violence on Republic Day in the capital between tractor and police tractor tractor parts.
As of January 26, protesters have been asked to evacuate one of these areas, with authorities cracking down on Internet services, blocking roads, setting up protesters, and barricades barring farmers’ movements. Journalists have been suspended from reaching the camps.