The Guwahati Molestation rattled the conscience of alarmed citizens. An unbelievable public assault on a young girl by a rabid mob. News Live broadcast a video of an Adivasi girl molested by a gang of men in Guwahati. The video went viral and the resulting outrage had 4 people arrested and some 14 identified before other questions started coming up.
- Why was the cameraman filming the Guwahati molestation instead of helping? This was defended as the journalist accompanying the cameraman being beaten up when he tried to interfere and the cameraman choosing to film evidence so that people may be arrested later. They claim that they alerted the cops.
- Some claims that the journalist did protect the girl.
Other accusations that he joined in molesting her.Serious allegation that another off-duty journalist from the same organization was instigating the molesters to attack the girl. [update: post by NewsLive editor says the off-duty journo was filming with his mobile.]
- Akhil Gogoi of Team Anna (who had been attacked by Youth Congress thugs earlier) is in possession of footage that shows that the journalist did not protect the girl but instigated her molestation. Youth Congress activists were among the molesters.
- A team of NCW or police (mixed accounts) wanted to meet the girl and speak with her about the incident when it was discovered that the girl and her friend have been kidnapped by Youth Congress activists led by Congress Minister Akon Bora.
- Contradicting claims that the girl was not kidnapped, but taken away for some reason. [update: taken for questioning. Why the Youth Congress and a Congress minister would take two girls away for questioning and with what authority is not clear]
- Tehelka has a superb expose on News Live and the role of the reporter
An Asamese channel reporting that the Youth Congress and Congress Minister Akon Bora have taken the victim away to an unknown location.
There are various other details like people absconding, people arrested, claims that the girl was being a drunk nuisance being used as a reason to molest her and so on. Brief outline is that two girls got into a spat with others in a club and came out. The argument continued. One girl slapped one man. Unclear what happened next, but that girl escaped, while the other one was the victim of the molestation incident.
Akhil Gogoi is clear that the off-duty journalist instigated the attack on the girl
“The reporter and his friends were at the bar and they passed comments about the girls, which started the brawl,” Gogoi said. “The reporter instigated his friends to assault the girl.”
Amarjyoti Kalita, the main accused, is a friend of the reporter, Gogoi said. “They went to the bar in the reporter’s Hyundai car. They are being safeguarded by the owner of the TV channel.”
To me, this incidents conceals more than it reveals. Several questions come to mind.
- First things first - are the girls safe?
- What was the cameraman doing on the street, prepared to shoot with a broadcast quality camera and journalist partner when the incident happened? Just "happened" to be there? [update: editor of NewsLive explains that the initial shooting happened with a mobile phone and another journo and cameraman reached 10-15 min after the off-duty journo called the office to report the incident and ask for crew]
- According to those who saw the footage, which is not released because it is inappropriate, the cameraman seems to have said things like "Catch her, make her naked, make her naked, catch her." and "Make her naked, let people see her… she is a prostitute and she dares to do this." while the girl struggles desperately as her private parts are groped and she is pulled around by her underclothes and hair. Continuing to shoot in the circumstances itself seems suspect - regardless of who said what gets proved.
- Later, the camera man seems to have said "Please come quickly, she has been caught… (to the mob) the camera is here, hold her, hold her" - If this is the cameraman's voice, it indicates the clear complicity of the channel itself as well as the sting being premediated - how would anyone know who the "she" was who who was caught unless there was some context known to the speaker and the one listening?
- The shot of the guy in the red shirt pulling the girl forward seems more like a pause in the molesting and he simply dragging her into the camera's view. Looks more like positioning her for whatever's next in that shot.
- Why is there early footage of the girls getting into an arggument? Do off-duty journos shoot random people arguing?
- What were the Youth Congress thugs doing there? [Also, how does Akhil Gogoi know they are Youth Congress?]
- Why this girl? Does she have any connection with the thugs that put her at increased risk? Disgruntled boyfriend, moral police relative, etc. in other words, was this premediated? [update: apparently not. It seems to be a fight within the group that became a free for all]
- What about the rest of the people from the group the girl was in? Why did they not help her, call for help or call police?
- What is Minister Akon Bora's need to protect molesters so publicly? Who are they to him?
- How did the video with Akhil Gogoi come into his possession? Who shot it? [update: NewsLive seems to be claiming he got it from them]
- Why did Youth Congress kidnap the girl, when it couldn't possibly be kept a secret considering the media attention?
- Why the rumors that she was not kidnapped? What authority is Youth Congress or Akon Bora in her life that they could legitimately remove her, if she wasn't kidnapped?
- What was the need/motive to kidnap her at all?
- The video was certainly shot openly, as the reactions of the attackers show. If it is proved that the journalist instigated the attack on her, does it mean that this was a deliberately staged, recorded and promoted humiliation of the girl? Who gains from this?
- Allegations by Akhil Gogoi that the journo was instigating the molesters. Local news in Assam reported that two molesters caught on the 15th also alleged that the journalist was guiding them. Video footage released by Akhil Gogoi seems to bear this out if it hasn't been tampered and the voice of the journalist matches that in the video.
- The cameraman continued to shoot for half an hour. Identifying culprits wouldn't need that much.
- The NCW has reported that the girl pleaded several times with the cameraman not to film her.
- The editor of another paper, Mukul Kalita who helped protect the girl says he told the cameraman to stop filming, but the cameraman continued - presumably misunderstanding him to mean to stop shooting Mukul Kalita and not stop altogether.
- Some stray reports about the initial fight the girls got into being over filming them without permission too. Can't find reliable source - consider unconfirmed.
- The journalist calling his office for a camera crew itself sounds like a fair bit of certainty that there will be something to shoot by the time they arrive. Normally a molestation is a fairly quick hit and run kind of thing, particularly in full public view.
- When Mukul Kalita arrived, there should have been four people to protect the girl, if the NewsLive team was protecting the girl at all - Mukul himself, off-duty journo, journo and cameraman. Mukul makes no mention of help. Camera didn't stop shooting is clear.
Update: When I realized that the girl who was stripped and molested was Adivasi, I tried to verify. It was verified by news reports, and along with them were many, many stories of adivasi girls stripped in Assam from before. This seems to be a phenomenon in itself. Stripping adivasi girls. More attention needed.
Update1: When I found the version of the video posted above, if you look at 1:45 to 2:10, the camera is tracking down the street seemingly like the cameraman is walking down the road and the shot continues with the girl being pushed into frame by the molesters. To me, it looks like the cameraman was walking ahead of the molesters and they overtook him and came into frame when he stopped. Setting up a shot? Doesn't make sense for a cameraperson to otherwise walk away from the action with camera running, and for the action to follow him, unless the point WAS appearing on camera. This is just a feeling, the video is too dark, to know exactly what is happening.
At 2:16 the molester asks her to show her face. For the camera?
Update2: Possibly related, possibly unrelated: News Live, the channel that shot the molestation is owned by Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, wife of Congress Minister for Education and Health in Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma. This may have nothing to do with anything if the incident was spontaneous. On the other hand, there is a lot of Youth Congress, Congress Minister and such turning up in this story.
Update 3: NewsLive Chief writes explanation of happenings around the incident, which explain that the off-duty journo alterted their office 200m from molestation location and a journo and cameraman reached there in 10-15 minutes, while the office called police. He says both their reporters tried to protect the girl but were outnumbered. The cameraman continued filming and this video has proved instrumental in catching culprits. This likely scratches out any possibility of collusion between the journalists and mob (video leading to arrests), though incitement cannot be ruled out.
Update4: All mentions of Youth Congress or Congress seem to have dropped out of the news. Either they are innocent and that has become obvious to reporters, or there is a tacit blackout.
Update 5: All in all, at a quick glance, there seems to be a heck of a lot of shooting of the Guwahati molestation incident. Consider:
- Unconfirmed report that the original fight was about the girls being filmed without permission.
- The fight spilled over to the street where it was being filmed without the girls knowing it.
- One girl escaped, the other got molested, the same guy who happened to have shot a stray argument (at that point) was shooting with his mobile phone.
- He calls for crew, cameraman-journo arrive, shoot extensively.
- The cameraman continues to shoot in spite of the girl requesting him not to
- The guy in the red shirt seems to be pulling her to place her in front of the camera.
- Mukul Kalita arrives to help. Asks cameraman not to shoot. Cameraman continues to shoot.
- Footage broadcast is about 3 minutes. Helps identify molesters - true.
Stay tuned. Check this page again later - will be updated as information comes in or new questions arise.
Final update: Amarjyoti Kalita along with 10 others were convicted on December 07, 2012 under various Sections of IPC namely 143 – unlawful assembly, 341- wrongful restraint, 294 -Obscene act, 323 – voluntarily causing hurt and 354 – Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.
News Live journalist Gaurav Jyoti Neog was acquitted along with Hafizuddin, Diganta Basumatary and Jitumoni Deka due to lack of evidence.