News Brief

“I Could’ve Been Lynched”: Shaheen Bagh Protesters Heckle And Manhandle Pro-CAA Panelist At India Today Debate

Arihant Pawariya

Jan 30, 2020, 02:23 PM | Updated 03:30 PM IST

Shantanu Gupta (right) and Raghav Awasthi.
Shantanu Gupta (right) and Raghav Awasthi.

Two pro-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) voices sympathetic to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government were heckled at and manhandled last night (29 January) at Noida-New Delhi Link Road which has been illegally occupied by residents of Shaheen Bagh for more than 45 days.

Shantanu Gupta, author of biography of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and Raghav Awasthi, lawyer and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member, appeared on India Today debate anchored by Rahul Kanwal at the same venue on the road where the protests are happening. They were part of the panel which also included Javed Ansari and Saba Naqvi.

The debate was chaotic from the very start. The panelists and the TV crew were surrounded by scores of sloganeering activists opposing the CAA.

“After finishing talking to us, Kanwal moved from the stage to the area where women were sitting and he started talking to them. As soon as the cameras shifted away from us, the heckling started. Two people caught my hand very firmly and shoved us towards the right side of the stage where some protesters shouted “yahi bade baal wala hai (pointing towards Raghav)”.

Then two of them shouted in my face "Yogi murdabad". “I don’t know if they knew I have written a book on him or they just simply were blurting out against CM Adityanath,” Shantanu Gupta tells Swarajya.

“They were shouting at us “kya bol rahe the tum?” (What were you saying?) in a confrontational tone. The whole atmosphere was violent and hateful,” Gupta adds.

“Saba quickly bid us goodbye as if nothing happened. Javed Ansari remained with us until the India Today taxi came and then we left the venue,” Gupta says.

While most of the cameras followed Kanwal as he moved from the stage to the area where women protesters were sitting, one of the cameras of India Today TV did manage to capture what was going on near the stage.

In the video below, after 24:55 minutes, some protesters can be seen heckling Gupta while Javed Ansari is trying to pacify them.

“I had only stated that Shaheen Bagh protesters should not allow the likes of Sharjeel Imam to use their platform to spew hate and peddle anti-national intentions and that the protesters should read the CAA. But they started heckling me over this. India Today removed the camera away from me facilitating the hecklers there,” Raghav Awasthi tells Swarajya.

“Rahul Kanwal’s behaviour was really pathetic. He was there when the protesters were heckling me but he didn’t reprimand them. He didn’t say even a word. In his studios, he is otherwise very quick to switch off microphone of guests or shout down voices he dislikes but at Shaheen Bagh, all his bluster disappeared. There was no security provided by India Today TV. I am thinking of sending them a legal notice. I could’ve been lynched,” Awasthi says.

"I am thankful to Javed Ansari. He tried pacifying them, telling the hecklers that I wasn’t speaking against them but only asking them to not allow Sharjeel Imams of the world to misuse the Shaheen Bagh platform. But I guess their agenda is also same as Imam’s otherwise why would they get offended at my suggestion,” Awasthi adds.

This is not the first time that Shaheen Bagh protesters have heckled and manhandled dissenting voices. Earlier, Republic TV journalist Pradeep Bhandari and News Nation anchor Deepak Chaurasia also became victims of the ire of the protesters.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.

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