The truthful messenger, in any conflict, is always at the receiving end of the abusive power. Again, throughout the uprising of 2016, Kashmiri journalists faced everything from gags to pellets and batons of the state. Contrary to the misappropriation of almost all Indian journalists that descended upon Kashmir like the “embedded” American journalists in the Iraq invasion, Kashmir’s indigenous journalist community reported with not only precision but also withheld the basic human tendencies of sensitivity, compassion and solidarity.
Quite understandably, they abandoned the corporate-journalistic tradition of “balanced-objectivity”, a flawed approach that obscures the disparity of power between occupied Kashmiris and occupier India. The balanced-objectivity approach also carpets the fact that the scale of state-sponsored violence was humongous when compared to both proactive and reactionary violence of the other side, the Kashmiri resistance.
For this fearlessness that exposed the underbelly of a deeply unpopular and abusive power in Kashmir, journalists were deliberately attacked with brute force, by state-agencies. The Kashmiri journalists, away from the glamour and jingoism of Indian media houses, reported facts on the ground that shall, forever, remain testaments of our collective suffering.
In one instance, the Indian forces attacked two photojournalists Xuhaib Maqbool and Muzzamil Mattoo with shotgun pellets. Xuhaib and Muzzamil were covering protests in Rainawari area of Srinagar. Xuhaib lost vision in his left eye while Muzzamil is recuperating from the wounds in his head. Both journalists have reiterated that this was deliberate targeting on the part of Indian forces. “I only want to ask the guy who shot me, why?” Xuhaib said in one interview with the Associated Press.
In another incident, Sumaiyya Yusuf, a journalist at daily Rising Kashmir was beaten up and verbally abused by Indian forces. Similarly, Muneeb-Ul-Islam, a freelance photojournalist, was thrashed by the Indian CRPF personnel while covering a protest in South Kashmir’s Yejbror. “The CRPF men used me as a human shield against stone-pelting protestors,” Muneeb said in an interview. Recently, the house of a Reuters photojournalist Danish Ismail was also ransacked by the Indian forces.
Journalists, while the state had banned the internet and other communication channels, put their lives on risk and kept us aware of all the abuses perpetrated by state, throughout the military siege. They were the eyes and the ears of our collective dissent. They became both the witnesses and victims of naked brutalities of the Leviathan.