The day I got my first battle scars

S.M. Shahbaz , an intern with The Telegraph, was manhandled by bandh enforcers on Monday. This is his first-hand account of what he saw and experienced.

  • Published 11.09.18
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Protesters stop a train at Patna Sahib station on Monday. Picture by Sachin

S.M. Shahbaz , an intern with The Telegraph, was manhandled by bandh enforcers on Monday. This is his first-hand account of what he saw and experienced.

I am what they call in journalistic parlance a cub reporter, and I got my first battle scars on Monday when I was manhandled and hit while covering the Bharat Bandh against runaway fuel prices.

A group of bandh supporters slapped me multiple times when I was taking photographs on my mobile phone of the road blockade they had set up near the Khwaja Imli shrine in the Harun Nagar area at around 11am. The protesters, who were armed with bamboo sticks, threatened me: " Photo delete nahi karoge toh bahut peetenge (if you don't delete the photographs we will beat you up badly)."

I had set out from my home in Phulwarisharif around 10.30am. The location where I was slapped is somewhere I travel through daily on my commute.

When I reached near the shrine by taking a lift from a biker - because autos and buses were nowhere to be found - the bandh enforcers had already set up their blockade - evidently they started their day earlier than me - and were stopping vehicles.

I got off the bike and took some photographs.

Some of the more aggressive protesters spotted me and quickly snatched my mobile phone. I asked them why they were harassing people on the road. It was then that blows started raining on me - from in front as well as from the back. One slap landed squarely on my face, sending my spectacles flying.

I kept telling them that I am a reporter with a newspaper, but they paid no heed.

One of them demanded I show ID proof of the media organisation. Unfortunately, I am an intern so I did not have an official ID card.

I sensed that the beating was about to get worse, and the instinct of self-preservation kicked in. I showed them that I was deleting the photographs from my mobile phone.

I also called up a senior colleague at the office.

The bandh supporters - they did not have any flags or banners to give away their party affiliation - even abused my colleague on the phone. There were no police personnel present anywhere within sight.

"The matter that you were thrashed by the protesters has come to our notice. The police will take strict action," Patna senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaaj later told The Telegraph over phone.

I spotted various instances of bandh enforcers misbehaving with the public - many of whom were out on the road only because of some unavoidable circumstance.

Many others told me they were also manhandled, thrashed and harassed.

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