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Harassment of film crew and confiscation of footage in Bombay

by sacw.net, 30 January 2009

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[message from filmmaker Rakesh Sharma]

Please help by registering your strongest protest to the Police Commissioner as instead of taking any action against the mob attacking the crew at midnight (asking for Richa to be bodysearched, tearing Rvviu’s clothes, snatching the camera, taking the footage away), the police seemed to pander to them, and have confiscated our footage illegally!

January 29, 2009 Fax CP 22621835

Hasan Ghafoor, IPS
- The Commissioner of Police, Mumbai

Sub: Harassment of documentary film crew and illegal confiscation of footage

Dear Sir,

We are working with Rakesh Sharma (98203 43103), well-known independent documentary film-maker. Today, we were filming for his latest film which deals with the human tragedy of terror and hate attacks, among other things documenting the diversity of responses from the civil society in the last few weeks. These have included memorial and felicitation functions, interviews with victims, patients and their families, peace marches, workshops and several other miscellaneous events. Today evening, as part of our ongoing filming, we were shooting at the Sadhu Sammelan on peace and terror at their public meeting at Somaiya grounds on Sion-Chunnabhatti road.

We took the required permissions from the organizers and were escorted by them into the press enclosure to enable us to film the speakers. After the meeting, as is our usual practice, we were taking audience reactions. While filming with an audience member from Simla, we were suddenly surrounded by a mob of approx 100-150 people, who identified themselves as members of Bajrang Dal and the Dharma Raksha Manch, raising objections to the interview. Though we tried to reason with them, the mob grew increasingly hostile and manhandled the cameraman Rrivu Laha and snatched the camera. They intimidated Ms Richa Hushing and demanded that she be body searched by one of the Durga Vahini members. The local event co-ordinator of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad who identified himself as being in-charge of security, intervened to stop further manhandling and demanded that the footage recently shot by the crew, be immediately erased in their presence. The tape itself was physically snatched by the mob from the cameraman.

At this time, the police wireless van attached to the Wadala Truck Terminus Police Station, reached the spot and intervened. They escorted us to their van and PI Chavan questioned us and offered to register a formal complaint. In the meanwhile, the other policemen went into the mob and brought a man named Wankhede with the tape that had been snatched by the mob. While the police were questioning him, two people arrived – one of them a delegate who had earlier addressed the meeting and the other, a local politician contacted by Wankhede. They then insisted that the crew be allowed to leave only after the tape had been formally confiscated by the police.

As we had just been subjected to mob violence, harassment, intimidation and were under duress, we agreed to comply with the demands of the mob and left the scene as we had a continuing fear of our safety. We are writing this complaint immediately on our arrival in our office.

We request you to treat this letter as a formal complaint and take appropriate action. Further, our footage containing not just the said interview but also much of our filming throughout the evening has not yet been restored to us. We urge that our tape be handed over to us urgently. We have spoken to SI Chavan telephonically at 1.30 am and informed him that this formal complaint is being lodged and have ascertained that the said tape remains in his personal possession.

Yours sincerely,

Richa Hushing Rrivu Laha, Jogesh Malakar

independent fim-maker (9969879319) cinematographer (9372446397) AD (65882504)

CC:

SI, Wadala Truck Terminus Police Station
- DCP of the zone
- Indian Documentary Producers’ Association