Srinagar: Four journalists were injured after the police charged against media professionals in Srinagar’s Hassan Abad locality here on Saturday. One of the journalists also received pellet injuries during the incident.
The journalists entered the area to cover the Muharram procession, a yearly rally carried out by Shia Muslims across the world. The mourners, however, this year have been banned to carry out these processions.
Among the injured, Shahid Khan said, “We were caught unawares when police started beating us without any provocation.”
Khan, who works for a Jammu-based daily, has received severe bruises on his back.
Another journalist, who wished not to be named, was fired at with pellet gun. “I received pellets on my back and in the head from behind,” he says. The journalist says he was lucky enough to save his eyes from the pellets.
Also, among the injured are two freelance photojournalists who claimed they were beaten up by the police despite being outside the procession.
During the incident, the camera of Yasrab Khan, a video journalist with ANN news channel, was also broken during the commotion, he said.
“We were only discharging our professional duty. It’s very tragic that we have to face such harshness,” Yasrab added.
“The incident took place at around 3 p.m at Hassan Abad locality, when the police, led by Rashid Khan, an officer from the local police station began thrashing a mediaperson present there even before he turned toward the Muharram procession,” a journalist who witnessed the incident told NewsClick.
On Muharram, Muslims belonging to the Shia sect grieve and commemorate a 1,400-year incident that occurred in Karbala (modern day Iraq) in which Islamic prophet Muhammad’s grandsons were killed along with many others. Since then Shia Muslims across the world and in Kashmir mourn relentlessly in the first 10 days of new Islamic year that begins with the month of Muharram.
Journalists in Kashmir have been facing such action by police and security forces in the past as well. In the past, several photojournalists have suffered grievous injuries due to pellet guns. In 2016, following mass protests across Jammu and Kashmir, many journalists were injured, and two of them were even blinded. Zuhaib, a freelance photojournalist, suffered injuries in both eyes. It took him more than two years to recover completely and get back to work. But, he has lost sight in one eye.
In the past one month, journalists in Kashmir have been complaining of massive difficulties since the government began a clampdown and communication blockade in the wake of abrogation of Article 370.
“Today there was a physical assault, but we are facing an undeclared onslaught by the government and police from the day the crackdown began. Our movement was restricted, and we still have no free access to any mode of communication,” another photojournalist, who witnessed today’s incident at Hassan Abad, said.
Media professionals in Kashmir say they are facing enormous problems due to communication blockade since August 4. Without internet and phone communication, they are left with only a few systems provided by the state information department to file their stories.