KOCHI: The New Indian Express team that went to Vadayampadi on Monday to report on the ‘caste wall’ issue was threatened and abused by a group of men claiming to be officials of the Vadayampadi Bhajana Madam Devi Temple, which has come under the scanner for erecting the wall.
Gopika I S, trainee reporter, and K Shijith, principal photographer, were on an assignment to cover the tension between the Dalit Bhoo Samrakshana Avakasha Samithi and the temple committee from the ground following the order by the Ernakulam collector on Saturday to maintain status quo.
After collecting the views from the Dalit activists and the local residents, Gopika was proceeding to the temple premises to take the other version when an SUV blocked her way, and the driver started questioning her in an abusive manner.
The driver, without identifying himself, demanded her identity card when Gopika told him she was from the media. She produced the identity card when he claimed he was the ‘president’ of the temple committee. However, there was no let-up in the verbal abuse and more people gathered, after he made a few phone calls.
A person claiming to be the ‘secretary’ of the temple accosted the reporter and breathed down on her with invectives and had to be pulled away by two onlookers to stop him from getting physical.
Threats like “you will not go back the way you came” were flowing non stop from the duo.The crowd that joined in spewed verbal abuse at the Express team for over 15 minutes before the police came.
The first three officers to arrive were supportive of the abusers and told the journalist, “You all should’ve reported at the station or called the temple officials before speaking to others.”
The reporter and the photographer were told to leave the premises.
Later, the journalists met Circle Inspector Sajan Xavier who assured them of necessary action. Advocate Sreesha Kumar, NSS Kunnathunadu Union president, later called up Express office and apologised on behalf of the temple committee and NSS members.
Temple committee president Rameshan who also called up the Express office, said “The members mistook Gopika for a reporter from a TV channel who gave a one-sided report. It’s an unfortunate incident that should have never happened. Temple committee secretary Anil Kumar and member Sivan Kutty have been censured.”