“Journalism is not a crime”: The unlawful crackdown on the media in Kashmir

15 October 2018
Journalists in Kashmir are witnessing an increased level of harassment by the police through censorship, interrogation and, in some cases, imprisonment. The illegal detention of Aasif Sultan is the most recent such incident.
Umer Asif
Journalists in Kashmir are witnessing an increased level of harassment by the police through censorship, interrogation and, in some cases, imprisonment. The illegal detention of Aasif Sultan is the most recent such incident.
Umer Asif

In early September, when I read about the arrest of Aasif Sultan, an assistant editor with the magazine Kashmir Narrator, the first thought that came to my mind was that the police was now intimidating journalists openly. In the past, they would summon and interrogate them discreetly, away from media attention—like they had twice done with me.

The first time was on 22 October last year, when an officer from Counter-Intelligence Kashmir, a section of the Jammu and Kashmir police’s criminal investigation division, made repeated phone calls to my father and brother, inquiring about my whereabouts. I was home at the time, in the politically volatile North Kashmir town of Handwara. We were mourning the loss of my 19-year-old niece. Since my Delhi number does not work in Kashmir, the CIK had decided to try my family.

Jinab, aise oos mashwar rasha karun, tohie aytov Srinagar taam” (Sir, we have to discuss something, you have to come to Srinagar), a hoarse voice at the other end on my brother’s phone commanded.

At dawn the next morning, my father caressed my hair to wake me up. It was time for me to travel to Srinagar, 72 kilometres away. “Please inform us in which jail they are going to lodge you,” my father told me. I nodded.

I reached the CIK headquarters in Humhuma, a neighbourhood near Srinagar airport, at 10.30 am on 23 October. As is the custom in Kashmir, I produced my identity card and asked the policeman at the entrance why journalists were being summoned. “To teach them a lesson,” he told me with a smirk.

Zulkarnain Banday is a journalist based in Delhi. He is an alumnus of the University of Bedfordshire, London.

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