At least nine high-level Indian journalists face criminal charges for reporting allegations that Delhi police shot a farmer in the head during protests last week, despite authorities saying they did not. shots were fired.
Delhi police have denied any involvement in the death of 25-year-old Navreet Singh during farmers’ protests in Delhi on January 26, India’s Republic Day.
Violent clashes erupted between police and farmers when thousands of protesters, calling for the repeal of the controversial new farm laws, stormed the city center, many of them on tractors and on horseback, and stormed the historic Red Fort.
Delhi police claimed that Singh, who was from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and was among those who had used a tractor to get through police barriers, was killed in an accident when his tractor overturned.
However, photographic and video images of Singh’s body, as well as the post-mortem report, indicate that he sustained an injury consistent with at least one fatal gunshot wound to the head, according to doctors who reviewed the evidence.
Witnesses filmed at the scene and Singh’s family, who examined his body, alleged that Singh died after being shot by police while driving his tractor through the barriers. They say Singh’s tractor only flipped over after he was shot.
Dr Basil Purdue, a UK Home Office registered pathologist who reviewed the video footage and the autopsy, said: “For me this is one gunshot wound, possibly two, unless proven otherwise “.
He added that it was extremely unlikely that Singh died from an overturned tractor. “You can’t get these injuries from a fall,” he said.
Farmers at the site were the first to claim that Singh had been hit by a bullet. A video from a local Punjabi television station obtained by The Guardian shows the immediate chaotic aftermath, with those on the scene describing what they had witnessed. “Those policemen shot him, they shot him in the face, they killed him instantly,” says a woman, while a man adds: “First they shot him, then the tractor overturned.” A young Sikh farmer identifies Singh: “Navreet is this child’s name. They have shot him in the head ”.
Shortly after the complaints surfaced, the police released video footage of the protests they claimed showed that Singh had died after falling from his tractor that overturned when it hit a barrier. They also told the Indian media that the autopsy did not mention any gunshots and that the official cause of death was “shock and bleeding” from a head injury.
However, Hardip Singh Dibdiba, Singh’s grandfather, claimed that the shooting was concealed in the autopsy, which was carried out in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh.
“At the hospital, a doctor told me that my grandson was shot, but he said they couldn’t write that a bullet killed him,” Dibdiba said.
The family also alleged that the hospital denied them access to the X-rays that were taken of Singh’s body during the autopsy. Rampur’s medical director, Dr. Sanjeev Yadav, told the Guardian that he would not discuss the family’s allegations.
Delhi police did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
Attempts by the Indian media to report on the story have been met with draconian repression. Nine journalists who published stories about the shooting allegations or tweeted mention of them have had criminal cases, including on charges of sedition, brought against them in five states. Opposition politician Shashi Tharoor also faces sedition charges for tweeting about the allegations.
Those facing charges include Vinod Jose, editor of India’s current affairs magazine Caravan; Siddharth Varadarajan, the publisher of TheWire.in, an independent online news portal; and Kanwardeep Singh, a journalist for the Times of India newspaper.
“This case against me is ridiculous and will not stand, but what the government really wants to ensure is that the family of the deceased does not repeat their claims and questions and is silenced,” Varadarajan said.
Kanwardeep Singh alleged that since posting a story about the allegations, he had been threatened through social media, calls and text messages and that his phone had been placed under surveillance.
“Messages are being sent through high-level journalists that either I stop writing and stay safe or I am ready to live my remaining life behind bars,” he said. “I am aware that the government can try to harm me or my family in any way, but I will continue to investigate.”
The family of the deceased farmer plans to take their case to court. However, after 200 farmers were arrested during the protests, many of whom were detained under strict anti-terrorism laws, the family said witnesses were afraid to come forward.
Singh, who owned 15 acres of land in Uttar Pradesh, had been among the hundreds of thousands of farmers who had camped out on the Delhi border since November to demand the repeal of new farm laws that they said will ruin their livelihoods. and they will leave them at the mercy of the corporations.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism