The Karnataka police on Friday detained at least nine journalists who reached Mangaluru from neighbouring Kerala to report the ground situation there following Thursday’s police firing that claimed the lives of two anti-citizenship law protestors.
Provoked by the development, Youth Congress workers blocked vehicles from Karnataka in Wayanad. The Kerala Police has stepped up security along Kerala’s porous border with Karnataka to prevent any outbreak of sectarian violence.
Meanwhile, journalists protested the Karnataka Government’s ‘gag’ on the press in Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad.
Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose told Tthat he is in touch with his counterpart in Karnataka and efforts were on to secure the release of the journalists. The reporters and camerapersons were all accounted for and safe.
Karnataka Home Minister B.S. Bommai soon told television channels in Bengaluru that the journalists have been released.
However, the newspersons have not established any communication with their colleagues so far possibly due to issues of connectivity precipitated by the internet and mobile network ban in Mangaluru.
According to information reaching the Kerala Police Headquarters (PHQ) in Thiruvananthapuram, the Mangaluru Police had hustled away several television camerapersons and reporters in a bus to a nearby law and order facility.
The incident occurred when journalists from Kerala arrived in strength outside the hospital where the bodies of those slain in Thursday’s action were kept for post mortem examination. The local police reportedly allowed only journalists accredited to the Karnataka Government to remain at the spot.
State Police Chief Loknath Behera later told journalists outside the PHQ that he had spoken to his counterpart in Karnataka. “She had promised me that the journalists would be allowed to leave after the police verified their credentials”, he said. Mr Behera said the Karnataka police would take action against those who have broken the law.
“Those who have merely done their duty could come back”, he added. The SPC said he could not commit whether the Karnataka police would allow Kerala journalists to remain in Mangaluru to report the developments there.
Kerala leaders condemn Bommai
The incident drew sharp criticism from across the political spectrum. Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekharan told journalists that the Government had asked Chief Secretary Tom Jose to contact his counterpart in Karnataka.
Industries Minister E. P. Jayarajan slammed Karnataka Home Minister’s purported comment that persons from Kerala were responsible for the violence in Mangaluru. He termed the statement as irresponsible and deemed it a dangerous attempt to divide people into communal and linguistic lines.
Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala and former Defence Minister A. K. Antony condemned the detention of the journalists.