Meanwhile, Varun Kumar IPS, the man in the centre of the controversy, has defended his actions.

TN Athi Varadhar fest Video of cops attacking journalist goes viral sparks row
news Controversy Sunday, August 18, 2019 - 08:39

A video purportedly that of about a dozen police officials manhandling a man, in front of hundreds of onlookers has been going viral on social media since Friday night. The video, which has been muted, originated from the Kanchipuram temple where Aththi Varadhar fest is going on.

The policeman, who is seen at the centre of the commotion, is Varun Kumar IPS, an officer of the rank of superintendent of police, who was posted in Kanchipuram to assist in bandobast duties. The man in the blue shirt is M Rajesh, a reporter with Jaya TV. The video, which is going viral, has prompted many to criticise the police.

Police attack unwarranted

Speaking to TNM about the incident, M Rajesh said that the he was scheduled to do a live telecast from the spot at 7.30pm on Saturday and was gearing up for that. “My cameraperson went past the rope which was tied in the middle of the path and I was about to go that side, when a police constable in uniform came and blocked me. When I said I am a reporter from Jaya TV, he asked ‘so what?’ and used foul language against me. I told him to watch his language and the altercation became big,” he said.

As the issue blew up, Varun Kumar IPS, who was regulating the crowd entered the scene, verbally abusing him, says Rajesh. “When he was coming towards us itself he was angry and started abusing us in English. I told him to mind his words. He immediately pushed me aside and in that commotion, our camera equipment got damaged,” Rajesh said.

TV crew was obstructing path meant for persons with disabilities

However, hours after the video clip appeared on social media, Varun Kumar IPS took to Twitter and questioned why the video was muted and if blocking the way meant for wheelchair-bound persons and pregnant women was a sign of responsible journalism.

Explaining his actions he said, “That is the only path into the temple and that path is divided into two lanes – one for normal crowd and one for vulnerable people like persons with disabilities. So when someone chokes that lane, I am required to respond.” Pointing out that a few other Tamil news channels like Thanthi TV and Puthiya Thalaimurai had no problems in covering the temple or interviewing people, Varun Kumar said that the Jaya TV reporter and cameraperson were in the lane specifically kept for people with disabilities, pregnant women and senior citizens who are the most vulnerable of those visiting the temple.

“The IG, SP and other senior police officers were standing near this lane with their force ready because it was a very precarious situation. The rain had started and this area is covered with a roof and the crowd outside the covered area was already trying to come inside the shelter. That is why all these senior officials were positioned there to prevent any untoward incident,” he said, justifying his actions.

Where is the audio?

Reiterating that those who have the video must post it without altering the original audio, Varun Kumar further stated that he was asking the reporter ‘What if you are from media? Don’t block the way’.

Rajesh, however, attributed the lack of voice in the footage to the damage that the equipment suffered in the commotion, minutes before he was attacked. “The police damaged our camera, and the audio and the LED have conked off. That is why the video doesn’t have audio to it. There are plenty of CCTV cameras installed in that area by the district administration. Those visuals will tell if I was obstructing the way anywhere in that location,” Rajesh said. Rajesh suffered injuries to his neck and was given treatment at the Kanchipuram Government Hospital.

“I will be lodging a formal police complaint and will give a petition to the District Collector on the incident. ADGP Thamaraikkannan (ADGP-Welfare), who was at the spot when the incident happened, knows about this and has assured me of appropriate action. My organisation has told me to come to Chennai where further medical treatment will be undertaken,” he added.

Meanwhile, Varun Kumar said that he has sent a complaint in the form of an intimation to his higher authorities. “If need be, I will also submit a detailed report,” he said. 

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