J&K: Police Beat Up Journalists Covering Anti-Citizenship Act Protests in Srinagar

A police officer reportedly recognised a scribe as one who had written a story on him and was particularly violent towards him.

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir police officials beat up three journalists near Islamia College here, where the students were protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) inside their campus.

Prominent journalists, Azaan Javaid, who works with ThePrint and Anees Zargar of NewsClick were beaten up by officials in Srinagar. Journalist Hakeem Irfan was also heckled by police officials while he was working.

At around 2 pm on Tuesday, reporters and photo journalists ran towards the spot when they heard that student protests were happening against the CAA, which like the reading down of Article 370 has got worldwide criticism.

The Amendment Act has been criticised in India and abroad for violating the secular Constitution of India and its promise of equality under Article 14.

When the journalists reached at the spot, they saw that police authorities were already present in the area, where stone pelting had also occurred.

When they were about to leave, they saw police detaining some boys, who according to them were not the part of the protests. “We tried to click the video and in the meantime, police came and thrashed us,” said a journalist at the scene.

First, they were told to show the identity cards, and when they did so, police still suspected that they weren’t journalists “They told us, ‘Why will we believe that you are journalists’,” said Javaid, whose phone was also snatched from him.

Javaid was then told to come to the police station and take his phone, following a heated argument.

Stones pelted during clashes between students and police during a protest against police atrocity on students of Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi and against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), near Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar, Tuesday, December 17, 2019. Photo: PTI

Meanwhile, Zargar said a police officer acted out of a sense of vendetta against him.

“He [the police officer] saw me and said, ‘I am that official against whom you had done a story’,” said Zargar. Then, he began thrashing Zargar near Islamia College.

“We thought the protests might be linked to protests happening in Delhi, but by the time we reached, the police had covered the whole area,” Zargar said.

This is not the first time that police officials have attacked journalists in Kashmir.

In the past four months, after the government of India diluted Article 370 and divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, journalists in Kashmir are facing tough times – the blockade of internet and mobile services has left them crippled.

Also read: Citizenship Amendment: Executing the Unfinished Colonial Agenda

Restrictions at the hands of police and the Army have become routine now. The valley’s journalists now soleley rely on media facilitation centre.

In the past four months, two journalists have also been detained.

On August 14, Irfan Ahmad Malik, who works for Greater Kashmir, was picked up by security forces from his residence in Tral town of Pulwama district during a midnight raid and was detained at a local police station. He was released after two days. The police, however, didn’t specify the grounds on which he had been arrested.

Female journalists in the valley have fared no better. On September 9, a woman journalist working for a national daily was also abused and bullied by baton-wielding policemen in the heart of Srinagar city.

Recently journalists in Kashmir protested against the communication blackout in Kashmir. It has been more than four months since prepaid and mobile services are shut in Kashmir. Message services are also shut in Kashmir since August 5.