Srinagar: “We are told we live in a democratic set-up where everyone enjoys freedom of expression, anyone can have an opinion, so that’s what I exercised,” said Kashmiri journalist Irfan Amin Malik.
The act of expressing his fundamental right to speech has landed 30-year-old Malik – who contributes frequently to The Wire – in trouble. The Jammu and Kashmir Police, on August 8, summoned him to Tral police station in south Kashmir and interrogated him over a tweet that he had posted on his personal handle. The tweet was on the Union territory’s film policy, recently unveiled by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.
Malik said he deleted the tweet only two minutes after posting it, out of fear of reprisal. But police somehow learned of it.
“I’m married and have a daughter. My family was waiting for me outside the police station. They too had to share my ordeal. I have not committed any crime, but I was summoned and then questioned for hours at the police station like a criminal,” he told The Wire, adding that “no parent would want their son to be summoned to the police station.”
I was not detained but called to the police station for questioning. Thanks for your help and support.
— Irfan Amin Malik (@irfanaminmalik) August 8, 2021
Malik said his parents were naturally worried in the aftermath of him being questioned.
“I was summoned by the police for expressing my opinion. This is disturbing at multiple levels. We should have some space to express our opinions,” he added.
Summons over a tweet
Speaking to The Wire over the phone, he revealed that he posted a tweet on the evening of August 7 about the Jammu and Kashmir film policy against which he had certain reservations. In the tweet, Malik said, he had also expressed the sentiment that the revival of the film industry can also generate revenue and opportunities in the Valley.
The Wire was unable to find a screenshot of the deleted tweet, considering the short duration during which it was up.
Shortly after deleting the tweet, Malik said he received a call from the Tral police station and was ordered to present himself in person. There, he was questioned by two police officers about his tweet for hours. He spent nearly five hours at the police station.
“I was taken aback, as I had deleted that tweet within two minutes. Moreover, my tweet was harmless and not offensive in nature. I certainly defended myself there,” he said.
He added that the police officials informed him that they have received a complaint about his tweet from the “higher-ups” and that this tweet could cause problems or disturb public order. They also told him that the government aims to promote the film industry through its new policy. “After five hours, I was finally released. Not before they made me sign some papers,” the journalist added.
Malik said that in future he will be careful while posting on social media platforms.
“I do my work. We face a lot of pressure on a day-to-day basis. It is not easy to be a journalist in Kashmir,” he added.
In 2019, a few days after Article 370 was read down, Malik had been detained for reasons that are unknown to him.
”Ultimately, I believe that everything is under surveillance. Even our personal space is not free. It is very perturbing,” Malik said.
On August 5, lieutenant governor Sinha launched the Jammu and Kashmir Film Policy 2021 with Bollywood actor Aamir Khan and filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani.
Speaking on the occasion, Sinha termed the day as “historic” and claimed that “the government has set up a single-window clearance mechanism, and prepared equipment, location and talent directories, besides offering a host of incentives for filmmakers visiting Jammu and Kashmir. The new policy aims at maximising the potential of promising local talent and creating livelihood opportunities for many.”
The Awantipora superintendent of police Mohammad Yousaf did not respond to calls and texts by The Wire. This article will be updated as and when the response will be received from the authorities.
Jahangir Sofi is a Srinagar-based journalist and tweets @SofiJahangir3.