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IIT Madras caught in an ugly confrontation with media after professor assaults lensman

26 Nov 2015
Posted 24 Aug 2012
Vol 3 Issue 34

The media fraternity in Chennai has been fuming since August 21 evening when a young news photographer working for the New Indian Express, Albin Mathew, was beaten up inside the campus of the elite Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, by a professor, who later sought the help of a band of security guards to detain him for about two hours.

But the anger in the media community is not over the assault alone. In fact, it has been increasing since Tuesday's unsavoury incident because the professors in IIT-M have been behaving more like mafioso than educated persons, as a report in the New Indian Express's Thursday edition suggested.

Injured photojournalist Albin Mathew(Photos Courtesy: The New Indian Express)

In fact most newspapers in Chennai have been going to town reporting the developments that point to a sinister plan by the IIT-M management, whose sole agenda appears to be to protect the erring professor, Prakash M Maiya, whom the New Indian Express has been referring to as 'don' (as the term can mean an academic and also a mafia don) in its headlines.

Journalists say they are shocked by the manner in which professors of IIT-M have conducted themselves. To start with, on Tuesday evening, after Mathew was rescued by the police with other media personnel calling up the local police station, another professor, Ganesh, spoke to the Deputy Resident Editor of the New Indian Express, G Babu Jayakumar, over phone and wanted to go for a compromise without aggravating the situation.

When Jayakumar wanted an unconditional apology, Ganesh agreed for that. So when Express staffers filed a complaint with the Kotturpuram police station on Tuesday night, they accepted a CSR entry and did not insist on an FIR.

But the next day, the attitude of the IIT-M management changed. First, the director, Bhaskar Ramamurthy, issued an 'apology' with a rider suggesting that the photographer had behaved in an unethical manner.

Within an hour after that, he issued another statement threatening to initiate police action against Mathew and also unabashedly saying that the professor had to beat up the photographer to protect the dignity of women.

Finding the IIT-M management unapologetic and having no remorse for assaulting a news photographer who was only discharging his official duties – he was on the campus to cover a suicide of a woman student – the entire media fraternity in Chennai rose like a man and went to Kotturpuram police station to press charges and to seek the registering of an FIR.

It was there Ganesh openly told the media persons he would bring three girls to file a complaint that Mathew harassed them and challenged them to do whatever they could. Subsequently, an FIR was registered the next day against the photographer with a serious charge under the women's harassment law.

Journalists met Chennai Police Commissioner J K Tripathy on Thursday and sought action against the IIT professor

But it is the attitude of the police that the media fraternity finds to be more intriguing. The police have not yet arrested the professor though non-bailable charges have been included in the FIR. They have just picked three guards from the campus.

Journalist organisations in Chennai are livid. They feel that such violence could be unleashed on any of their members at any time anywhere. After all the IIT campus was the last place where they expected to be assaulted.

Now with the police claiming that Maiya was on the run and that it would take time to arrest him, professionals from the print, electronic and internet media are determined not to let the matter die. They want action against Maiya.

They plan to meet Chennai police commissioner J K Tripathy tomorrow and demand that the police take action against the professor and not yield to the pressure tactics of the IIT.

Chennai Press Club’s joint secretary Bharathi Thamizhan, said journalists viewed the incident as an attempt to intimidate the media from performing its duties. - TWL Bureau

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