2 Lensmen Detained Amid Clashes19 August 2011
Srinagar: The police detained two photojournalists including a foreigner when they were covering violent clashes that erupted in old city after Friday prayers. Scores of youth after finishing the congregational prayers gathered outside the historic Jamia Masjid here and attempted to take out a march. The youth said they were observing 'Martyrs Day' following the call by the Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani. As soon they began to assemble, contingents of police and CRPF deployed in the area swung into action by cane charging them. They also used sling shots and marbles to frighten people away. However the youth dispersed and divided themselves into small batches and starting hurling stones at the forces. The violent clashes continued in Nowhatta and adjoining places till reports last came in. Meanwhile, police detained and beat up a freelance photo journalist- Showkat Shafi. Shafi, 25, was covering an assignment for a popular international channel- Aljazeera. “All photographers were shooting at Nowhatta,” a photojournalist who was present during Showkat’s arrest told Greater Kashmir, adding, “The police and CRPF appeared from an alley and shouted at us. We got scared and ran away from there. They caught hold of Showkat and beat him up with plastic and bamboo canes. They also kicked him and dragged him on the road.” He said later the photojournalist was whisked away to police station Nowhatta. A photograph taken from a distance clearly shows a CRPF man catching hold of Showkat by hair- who is surrounded by scores of CRPF men and policemen. Showkat was contributing to the Aljazeera’s special online page on Kashmir- “Kashmir the Forgotten Conflict.” Another photographer, Narciso, covering assignment for the American press agency-Zuma- was also detained from Nohwatta. “I was standing there. As the protestors hurled stones, I took a back seat. Narciso was shooting the clashes,” Rajesh Iyer, who was covering the protests along with Narciso, told Greater Kashmir. “Later the caught hold of him. They used abusive language and beat him up with canes. The also kicked him.” Iyer said Narciso showed them press card but to no avail. “The dragged him and lodged him in police station,” he said. Photographers have deplored the detention of photojournalists. “They should announce downtown a no go zone,” a photographer said. “If the police has objection, they should issue press statement to inform us not to go to old city. Whenever we go they humiliate and beat us. It has become a norm. Whether it’s officially sanctioned or not, I have no information”. It is not the first time journalists have been targeted. Some days ago, photographers alleged that following proper instructions from the higher ups, the police and CRPF men beat or intimidate them when they are covering assignments. A photojournalist, Javed Dar, sustained injuries in his head recently when he was hit by a stone thrown by the cop. SP, North city, Showkat Shah confirmed that they have detained the photojournalist from the old city. “He was leading from the front with the pelters that is why we have detained him,” Shah said. The SP also alleged that “individual photographers and reporters were on the pay rolls of army and Intelligence Bureau and other vested interests groups.” Kashmir Press Photographers Association (KPPA) condemned police action. “It is sheer highhandedness and we condemn it,” a spokesman of KPPA said in a statement. Meanwhile, late in the evening Police released both the photojournalists. “Police had subjected the duo to severe torture. Both were admitted in the hospital where they are undergoing treatment,” a senior photojournalist told Greater Kashmir. Friday prayers concluded peacefully: Police spokesman. A police spokesman said Friday prayers concluded peacefully throughout Kashmir Valley today. “There were no reports of any untoward incident from any place, however, few miscreants after Friday prayers attempted to disrupt peace and resorted to stone pelting on police and security force deployment in Nowhatta area. Police however exercised restraint while dealing with the situation. These miscreants were chased away. No one was hurt in the incident,” he said.