Senior Indian journalist Lalit Jha speaks out on the attack on him by Khalistani supporters

Senior PTI journalist Lalit Jha

Ritu Jha-

The violent March 25 attack on senior Indian journalist Lalit Jha, the chief US correspondent of news agency PTI, evinced a sharp reaction not only from the Indian American community but also from the US government and the Indian embassy, all of who condemned the assault by pro-Khalistani protesters outside the Indian embassy in Washington, DC.

That no arrests have yet been made by US law enforcement has only increased apprehensions.

indica spoke to Jha about the protest and the subsequent assault. “After seeing a poster on the Khalistani supporters’ demonstration scheduled to take place at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, I reached there (Indian embassy in Washington, DC). The protestors turned on me, confronted me, and threatened me. Fearing for my safety, I called 911. Before help could reach me, they continued clicking my photos, and video recording me. There were some 60-70 Khalistani young supporters there,” Jha recounted.

“I felt scared, they kept provoking me and asking for my identity. When the US Secret Service personnel reached the site, the protestors asked them to ensure that I leave the consulate premises. They were making threats that if the demonstration turns violent then media persons who were at the spot could get injured and that they should not be blamed for any such eventuality. Soon the demonstration did turn violent,” he said.

This is not the first time Jha has reported on the Khalistan movement. He has covered various events for the last 15 years, but what surprised Jha was the boldness and the tendency of the protestors to turn violent. He said that these developments are rooted in the fact that no action has been taken against them yet.

About his threat perception, Jha said: “In this country, I can’t talk about India because I have not lived there for the last 15-16 years, I can talk only about the US and the level of tolerance and the space for journalists to express their views freely and to cover events freely is shrinking.”

“I have covered them for a long time and recently they have turned more violent. From vandalizing Gandhi’s statue and now attacking the Indian consulate in SF. This is primarily because they see that no action is being taken by the administration or law enforcement agencies against them.”

“They think that the First Amendment gives them a basic right to indulge in any kind of violence against India or Indian interests in this country and the First Amendment is going to protect them. That’s the basic message that has gone through to the separatist Sikhs in this country and this is the reason why they have been violent and there will be more violence if no steps are taken.”

“The First Amendment doesn’t mean you indulge in violence, it gives you the right to express your views freely. It doesn’t mean that you attack people and damage properties of other countries. I’m not sure why law enforcement agencies have not been taking any action against those who are indulging in violence,” Jha said.

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