Srinagar: A Kashmiri photojournalist was hit by pellets and three other scribes were injured when personnel of Jammu and Kashmir Police allegedly attacked them as they covered a Muharram procession in Srinagar’s Hasanabad area Saturday.
The journalists told ThePrint that police used batons to disperse them and chased after them when they attempted to leave the area. They were caught and beaten with lathis, they added.
The camera of a fifth journalist was allegedly broken by J&K Police personnel in their efforts to stop the coverage of the procession.
The incident took place around 2 pm at the Hasanabad locality of Rainawari area, which has a predominantly Shia population. The photojournalists were in the locality to cover a religious procession on the seventh day of the Islamic month of Muharram.
Shia Muslims commemorate the tragedy of Karbala during the first 10 days of Muharram, where they believe the grandson of Prophet Muhammad was killed along with his companions and family members.
Across the world, Shia mourners take out processions to commemorate Karbala. But such processions have been officially banned in Kashmir since the eruption of the 1989 insurgency.
Each year, Kashmir’s Shia mourners attempt to take out processions in the Valley but it invariably ends in clashes and detentions.
According to the photojournalists, station house officer Rashid Khan ordered his men to beat up the reporters. When the photojournalists tried to flee, they added, police resorted to pellet-firing, which resulted in injury to one of the local scribes.
“I was hit by three pellets, one in the head, one in the shoulder and one in the leg. A local person helped me take them out of my body,” said the injured freelance photojournalist, who wished to remain anonymous.
The three journalists who were allegedly beaten up were Shahid Khan, Mubashir Dar and Bilal Bhat.
“They came and started to yell at me that I shouldn’t cover the procession. Even before I could respond to them, they started beating me. I had to run away,” said Shahid Khan, while showing the injuries he received on his back.
Another photojournalist said the CRPF personnel posted alongside J&K Police tried to intervene and asked them not to hit the scribes. “But they didn’t listen. They just kept hitting the photojournalists till all of us had to flee. I was seeing this from a short distance and managed to run away before police could catch hold of me,” the photojournalist added.
Yasrab Khan, a journalist with the local news channel ANN News said his camera was broken by a policeman chasing him. The area was sealed soon afterwards, making it impossible for journalists to reach local police for a comment.
This report will be updated as and when ThePrint secures a response from police.
Muharram restrictions in Srinagar
The state administration has issued directions that no processions will be allowed in Srinagar on 8, 9 and 10 September, and the government is likely to impose strict restrictions from Sunday in view of Muharram.
A senior government official said Saturday that maintaining peace during the last days of Muharram was a top priority for the security forces here.
ThePrint has approached the Srinagar senior superintendent of police (SSP) for comment. The report will be updated when a response is received.