Mahanta had stopped at a local supermarket around 35 kilometres from the state capital, Guwahati, when he was confronted by a group of men, led by suspect Sanjay Thakuria. The group began abusing him for his reporting on illegal gambling activities in the area, with the verbal abuse turning to physical attacks as Mahanta was dragged, tied to a light post and brutally thrashed. The journalist was later rescued after a large crowd gathered, taking him to a nearby pharmacy to assess his condition.
A viral video of the incident clearly identified Abani Thakuria, Sanjay Thakuria and Biswajit Das as perpetrators of the assault. The Gauhati High Court has granted anticipatory bail to three men after the payment of a 15,000 rupee bond (approx. USD200). In an interview in the days following the incident, Mahanta stated, “they wanted to kill me, I guess. I had written a series of reports against them. They also tried to attack people who came forward to save me. It has been three days since the incident, yet police never came to my home to ask for details.” Bhupen Goswami of Assam, vice president of NUJI has called for the thorough and immediate investigation of the case and appealed to the Assam Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta. Goswami demanded authorities arrest all the accused involved in the incident. Geetartha Pathak, president of IJU, also condemed the granting of bail to the suspects involved which may be due to political pressure.
The IFJ’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists Campaign, concluding on November 23, aimed to highlight the lack of justice for the murders and attacks on journalists, with a particular focus on India. Since the campaign began on November 3, two Indian journalists have been killed, adding to existing death tally of three journalists already killed in 2020.
The IJU said: "The granting of anticipatory bail by the Gauhati High Court to three main accused in the shocking case of assault of journalist Milan Mahanta after his reports exposed rampant gambling by the land mafia is unfortunate and the decision may be influenced by political pressure as they have strong links with powerful people."
The IFJ said: “The blatant verbal and physical abuse of journalists demonstrates the disregard of authorities for the safety of journalists and media workers in India More must be done to protect reporters and end impunity for crimes committed against them for their work. The IFJ calls for an immediate investigation into the assault on Milan Mahanta and the swift prosecution of his assailants.”