Srinagar: A Srinagar based journalist was assaulted by cops in Budgam area of Kashmir on Sunday, further accentuating the sad state of affairs so far as the freedom of Press and working conditions for journalists in Kashmir are concerned.
Peer Viqar Ul Aslam, reporting for Morocco World News, was covering Parliamentary elections when he was assaulted by special unit of Police on Sunday. The cop from the Special Operational Group (SOG) held him on gun point demanding he stops taking pictures or the cop will shoot him.
The reporter, along with three other reporters, had reached an area in Budgam district after inputs of a police firing and civilian causalities. As soon as they reached the spot, a police contingent of more than 100 men was retreating amid heavy clashes with stone pelting youth.
The polling staff was attacked by the youth and the electronic voting machines were looted by the protesters supporting election boycott. The infuriated cops started firing on protesters resulting in injuries to more than six youth.
As the reporters reached the spot, one of the SOG men charged at them demanding they leave and stop taking pictures or shooting video. Peer Viqar Ul Aslam was held on gun point by a disgruntled cop, who threatened the reporter of shooting him, if he doesn’t stop taking pictures.
“Stop taking pictures! Or I will shoot you! I will break your bones and your cameras.” shouted the cop at the reporter.
“I tried to reason with the cops that I was there to perform my duty as a journalist, but the cop demanded while pointing his gun towards me that I leave or he will kill me. They didn’t want us there.” said Peer Viqar Ul Aslam.
The cop also charged on another reporter Yawar Khan from a local daily newspaper, aiming the weapon on this reporter’s chest. The cop also snatched his cellphone that the reporter was using to cover the clashes between the police and the stone pelters who had attacked the polling station.
“The cop meant his words, he had his gun off safety. He held me on gun point, he could have easily shot me dead as Police exercises total impunity. Who knows maybe he would have received medals for it!” exclaimed Peer Viqar Ul Aslam.
The reporter was caught up in the clashes and was hit by stones in his left leg and right shoulder while trying to run for cover. Covering the volatile conflict in Kashmir can sometimes be a life and death situation, The reporter merely escaped the violent clashes what could have resulted in fatal injuries.
Another local daily reporter Javaid Ahmad and Photojournalist Bilal Ahmad were also injured and assaulted by the same cop from the special counter insurgency unit of the J&K Police.
Eight people were reported to have been killed and more than 300 injured on Sunday in Kashmir as the voting was recorded to be at its lowest since 1996 with just 7.14% voting registered as majority of the people boycotted the parliamentary polls on 9th April.
This is not the first instance of journalists being targeted by security personnel in Kashmir. Several scribes suffered the brunt of police excesses during the unrest that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Two photographers were hit by pellets while covering a protest, leaving one of them partially blind.
Scores of journalists have been maimed and killed in the Kashmir conflict. The incriminous threats and assaults on the journalists continue and Kashmir remains to be one the deadliest conflict to cover for the journalists.
Pertinently, Kashmir is the world’s most militarized zone, near about 700 thousand Indian troops are present in Kashmir. Since the partition of British India in 1947 and creation of modern states of India and Pakistan, the two South Asian countries have been involved in four wars, including one undeclared war, and many border skirmishes and military stand-offs. As per official figures, since the rise of armed insurgency in 1989, more than 70 thousand people have been killed.
This story was first published on Morocco World News