News 9 TV journalist Nabeela Jamaluddin and her colleagues had gone to Tulasipura in Jigani taluk in the outskirts of Bengaluru to report on one crusher unit on Thursday afternoon. It was while leaving the spot that their cab was surrounded by musclemen who blocked their way for 25 minutes. All this while, around six to seven men abused the TV news crew and asked for the footage to be deleted.
“Seven people came and surrounded our car as we were moving towards the main road. They blocked our vehicle and started banging on our windows and threatened us to step out of the car. When we refused to step out, they started banging on our windows again and also threatened my car driver of dire consequences,” a part of Nabeela’s complaint copy reads.
“The goons insisted we delete the footage right in front of them. When we refused to delete it, they continued to threaten and intimidate us by constantly banging on the window and using vulgar language,” she said in her complaint.
“Since mobile connectivity is poor there, we could not reach police officials quickly. It was only after many dropped calls that I could reach the police including Anekal Deputy Superintendent of Police and give our location. But due to the remoteness of the place, it was a little difficult to locate us,” Nabeela told media later on Friday.
Even though the men knew the police approaching, they did not budge. It was only after much persuasion that they agreed to meet at the Bannerghatta Police Station. But the ordeal did not end there. Upon reaching the police station, the police in turn questioned Nabeela and her colleagues as to why where there in the first place, even as the men claimed that the crew had stepped into private property without permission. Nabeela further claimed that the crusher unit did not have necessary paper work from the state pollution control board and other authorities to run as a legal entity, even if they had clearance from the Mines and Geology Department.
“It was at this moment when I lost my cool. They could understand and see my hands were shivering due to the shock but still they were taking the side of the men. Later, after the DySP called, they mellowed down and listened to me,” she added.
Nabeela lodged a formal complaint based on which an FIR was registered by the police. Sections under which the accused were booked include Section 341 (wrongful restraint), 252 (intent of fraud), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Following the complaint, police have arrested three of the accused— Umesh, Muralu and Shankar and a local court sent them to 15 days in judicial custody.
“The three persons arrested work at the crushing unit. They have been taken into custody and we are continuing our investigation into the incident. So far, action has not been taken against the person running the unit,” a police official investigating the incident told media.
Mining and Geology Minister Rajshekhar Patil has taken cognisance of the incident and ordered a detailed report in the matter.
Reports of journalists being attacked also prompted Bengaluru District Collector Vijaya Shankar to visit the spot on Friday. Speaking to News9, he said, “I don’t think a lot of mining activity has taken place in the recent past. However, our officers have informed me that some amount of crushing activity has taken place. I have given very clear instructions to senior geologists, tahsildars and police that this kind of illegal activity should not be allowed to take place either in the day or night.”
Rampant Illegal mining in the stretch leading to the national park has been going on for two decades, as pointed out by environmental activists with tacit support from all major political parties. But since June 2018, there was a brief halt in the activities as the Karnataka High Court imposed a ban. In July, 15 companies were given permission to resume mining operations in the area.