An open letter from a photojournalist assaulted by Indian security forces in Kashmir: Yawar Kabli
Guest post by YAWAR KABLI
All freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of India are being violated or altogether thrown away by the Jammu and Kashmir Police. One could substantiate that with any number of examples. We were not the first pressmen to be thrashed by the police while covering the stone-hurling protests in the Kashmir. On Friday, 25 November 2011, without any rhyme or reason policemen along with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) thrashed four of us, including me, and snatched away our expensive cameras. They did not even hesitate to bundle us into police vehicles while taking us to the Khanyar police station.
We were mercilessly beaten and the snatched equipment is still lying with the police. Several requests to the Station House Officer (SHO) to return our equipment have thus far fallen on deaf ears. The police is categorically refusing any knowledge of snatched cameras.
Some years ago, when a photojournalist was roughed up by the police in New Delhi his camera snatched and broken, the media showed the incident for about a week. How appropriate is it for the Indian media to ignore their brethren working in the strife-torn Valley? Three days have passed since the day of assault, the solidarity from the press working in the Indian mainland is yet to come. Last time, a Mexican photojournalist, who also witnessed the brutality of the police and CRPF in Kashmir, said in his First Information Report that more than Rupees 50,000 were snatched by cops while he was being assaulted in Srinagar.
Photojournalists coming from different countries to Kashmir for work have faced wrath at the hands of forces. The images are not good for the overall image of the police which is already struggling to create a good image in the public. When journalists tell the gory incidents of beating and looting to the people outside, I am sure it doesn’t help.
Photojournalists are not writers, but their pictures convey their message to the all and sundry, even the unlettered. Please consider the technical staff, including photographers and videographers, as indispensable to the press, as we are the ones who reach the spot within minutes of an incident.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is perhaps in hibernation mode. I cannot recall a single occasion when Omar has condemned any incident or any attack on the press. I along with my colleagues as a responsible member of the press fraternity request the Chairman of the Press Council of India to look into the matter and use his good offices to prevail upon the Director General of the Jammu and Kashmir Police to refrain from such attacks on the press.
(Yawar Kabli works with Kashmir Dispatch, where this article first appeared. He is also a contributing photo-journalist with Getty Images.)