AFP photographer Tauseef Mustafa being assaulted by polcemen. Photo credit: Faisal Khan
Srinagar, March 16: Around half a kilometer away from Jammu and Kashmir police headquarters in Srinagar, several photojournalists were beaten and threatened by uniformed men on Thursday afternoon. The photojournalists were covering separatist leaders comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik’s detention outside the residence of Geelani on Srinagar Airport road.
Senior photojournalist of Agence France Presse (AFP), Tauseef Mustafa whose photo showing a police officer holding his throat while pushing him away went viral on the Internet, said he was doing his job professionally when the police assaulted him.
Narrating the events Tauseef, who has covered international conflicts such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq said the police officer on duty shoved him away and held his throat without any provocation. “I failed to understand my fault. The police stopped us from entering Geelani’s residence at the entrance of the lane leading to his house. We followed the diktat,” he told The Hoot after facing the assault.
When Geelani along with Mirwaiz and Malik came out of the house, the police swung into action and bundled them into vehicles. “I started clicking photos. But a police officer threatened me ‘I am from SOG (special operations group meant for counter-insurgency operations) and I can kill you’,” Tauseef quoting the police officer said. He said police couldn’t handle situation prompting them to shift blame on scribes.
Similarly, senior journalist Mubashir Khan of the daily Greater Kashmir said a police vehicle ran over his feet and he was pushed away by policemen. “Their motive was not to allow us click pictures,” he said.
A reporter of daily Kashmir Reader Anees Zargar, who was at the spot said, the journalists were not allowed to enter Geelani’s residence. “Before the police officer dragged Touseef, he shouted provocative remarks at journalists. The reporters tried to intervene but to no avail,” he added.
Later the Kashmir Press Photographers Association led by Farooq Javed Khan, who covers the region for European Press Photo Agency, held a sit-in against the “police assault” at press colony in Srinagar. “The policemen abused us and they roughed up whosoever came their way,” he said demanding action the accused policemen. “Otherwise, we will continue our protests,” he said. Entire media fraternity, Khan said, would hold protest on Saturday to demand action against this harassment.
The Kashmir Editors Guild, a body of newspaper owners and editors set up last year, in a statement issued to media in the afternoon said there is clear photo and video evidence of the police assault.
“KEG has taken a strong exception to the misuse of power for muzzling the media. This has unfortunately been a routine than an exception. Last time, while photographers were covering an event in Bijebhara (Anantnag), cops actually fired a projectile on one of them outside the hospital gate, thus pushing him to hospital for many weeks for a broken arm,” it said.
Jammu Kashmir’s Director General of Police Shesh Paul Vaid told The Hoot that he would “counsel” the policemen against the backdrop of the incident. “Like stone throwers need counseling, police also need counseling,” he said on phone.