Pakistan v India, 3rd Test, Rawalpindi, 1st day April 13, 2004

Indian photo-journalist assaulted

After 34 incident-free days, a sour note was struck on the cricket field today when an Indian photographer was assaulted by a police constable at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium during the afternoon session. Local authorities have been prompt in ordering an enquiry pending which the constable has been suspended.

Suman Chattopadhyay, a photo-journalist of Pratidin newspaper in Kolkata, was slapped and kicked by the constable. Chattopadhyay was making his way back to the area where photographers are seated, and was accosted by the constable. The photographer explained that he was merely returning to the spot he had occupied all through the first session, and displayed the media badge issued to him by the Pakistan Cricket Board. The badge says clearly `Access to all areas except dressing rooms'.

Unsatisfied by this, the constable prevented the photographer from returning to his spot on the pretext that he did not possess a special pass required to enter the perimeter area of the ground. In no other venue in Pakistan has such a pass been necessary, and even here, Chattopadhyay was not stopped when he took his place first thing in the morning.

The constable proceeded to slap the photographer and then kicked him, all in full view of other policemen, including his superiors, who made no attempt to stop him. It was only the timely intervention of other photographers, followed quickly by Samiul Hasan and Amrit Mathur, the media managers of Pakistan and India, that broke up the fracas. The constable, identified simply as Imtiaz of the Punjab Police, tried to make a quick getaway from the scene, but that was prevented.

The constable then attempted a weak apology, filmed all the while by news channels, in the hope that the matter would be laid to rest. However, news spread to the authorities at the highest levels, and the mayor of Rawalpindi, Raja Tariq Mehboob Kiyani, was forced to apologise. Having done so, Kiyani said that the constable had been suspended and that an inquiry was underway. The PCB, which has done its best to ensure that this tour is conducted successfully in an incident-free manner, expressed its deepest regret at the incident.