After several journalists were thrashed in Srinagar on Tuesday while covering Muharram processions, the Jammu and Kashmir Police today took action against a cop who led his team members while acting against the crowd at Jehangir Chowk. J&K’s top cop had also criticised the actions, saying, “This is not acceptable”.
In photos and videos shared on social media, the cop was seen chasing away the journalists at Srinagar’s Jehangir Chowk and thrashing them with a baton. A senior police officer said the Station House Officer has been removed from Shergari police station and shifted to district police lines.
The incident has sparked huge criticism. “He’s an independent photo-journalist. His camera is his livelihood. The administration owes it to Sajad to compensate him for the loss he has suffered while working,” former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted while sharing photos of the incident.
“Media is spending hours debating the human tragedy and unfolding crisis in Afghanistan but will they speak up for their own community in Kashmir who were beaten to pulp today by security forces for doing their job?” tweeted PDP leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti along with the video that captures the chaos at Jehangir Chowk.
Speaking to NDTV, Dilbag Singh, Director General of J&K Police, said “This is not acceptable. I have asked SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) Srinagar to take strict action against the erring officer.”
Officials said six Station House Officers (SHOs) in Srinagar were transferred today. The Shergari Station House Officer is among three SHOs who have been removed and shifted.
Journalists in Kashmir have been working in difficult situations and there are frequent complaints about similar assaults. However, action from authorities has been rare.
“DGP J&K Sh Dilbag Singh takes serious view of undesirable behaviour with some media men in Srinagar yesterday. SSP Srinagar directed to take immediate action against the erring police officer (sic),” the Jammu and Kashmir Police had earlier tweeted.
Sajad Hameed, a young freelance photojournalist said that his camera was broken while he was being thrashed on Tuesday. “My father gifted me this camera. It was my birthday gift last year. I cannot afford a second camera. Authorities should compensate,” he said.
In a statement, the Kashmir Press Club have urged the authorities to “respect freedom of expression” and “allow journalists to perform their professional duties”.
In April, Inspector General of police Kashmir Zone issued directions to all district SSPs to take legal action if a journalist comes near an encounter site or “law and order situations”.
The controversial order was issued after a video was widely shared on social media in which journalists were seen being thrashed.