GUWAHATI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Directors General of Police, Assam and Mizoram calling for a detailed report on the physical assault and lathi charge on journalists by the Assam police. The scribes were on a reporting assignment on March 10 at Zophai Bairabi area in Kolasib district of Mizoram near Assam border.

The officers have been given four weeks to respond. The Commission has issued these directions after taking cognizance of a complaint.

At least two journalists – Emmy C Lawbei, a reporter of the News18 and Catherine C Sangi, correspondent of All India Radio were injured while they were covering a students’ rally.

The journalists had gone to Zophai to prepare a ground report as there was tension between Mizo Zirlai Pawl, a student organization of Mizoram and the Assam police, which spiked because of the lathi charge by the Assam police on the journalists. The police also fired gun shots.

The complaint pointed out that the journalists showed their press identity cards to the police personnel but they were not spared and beaten black and blue. Many of the journalists, including women, have sustained serious injuries.

The Mizoram Journalists' Association called a General Body Meeting at Aizawl Press Club Conference Hall on March 12 to condemn the attack. A sit-in demonstration was also organized on March 13.

Earlier, journalists’ bodies based in New Delhi had also written to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to take strict action against the culprits. But no action has been taken.

A joint statement issued by Gautam Lahiri for Press Club of India, Shobhna Jain of Indian Women's Press Corps and Nadeem A Kazmi of Federation of Press Clubs in India had asked the Assam CM for a time-bound action.

The incident left Emmy C Lawbei badly injured who later posted her images in Facebook.

“We are Journalists who came to do ground reporting, we were unarmed, our only weapon was camera, pen and notepad, yet you beat us black and blue and you fired shots at us. I am so mad at your ignorance and aggressive behaviour towards us. Stop assaulting press,” she had written.

Journalists in the North East have been targets. At least 32 journalists have been killed in Assam in the last 30 years. However, not a single assailant has been punished or booked.

Apart from that two journalists who were murdered in Tripura in 2017 are yet to get justice. The new government in Tripura has handed over the cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Santanu Bhowmik,28 who worked for Deen Raat, a local news channel, was abducted and hacked to death while he was covering a political clash between Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and CPI(M)’s tribal wing Tripura Rajaer Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP) at Mandwai, some 25 kilomtre from state capital Agartala. The incident took place in September 2017.

In November the same year another journalist Sudip Datta Bhaumik was allegedly shot by a jawan of the 2nd Tripura State Rifles (TSR) at RK Nagar, about 20 kilometre from Agartala.

Nava Thakuria, secretary of Journalist Forum, Assam (JFA) said that it’s unfortunate that journalists are being killed at will and the government has failed to do anything.

“We have been demanding justice for the killing of all the journalists. Following that there should be an act which provides safety and security for the journalists at work. If that is not happening similar incidents will continue to happen which is a disgrace for a democracy,” Thakuria told The Citizen.