Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday (February 8) summoned two journalists for questioning them over a story related to the proscribed pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)’s call for a strike on the death anniversaries of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat. The story is already in the public domain.
Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Srinagar-based counter-insurgency grid summoned Naseer Ahmad Ganai, who works for the Outlook magazine, and Haroon Nabi, who works for local news gathering agency Current News Service (CNS). They were grilled for publishing and circulating a statement of the JKLF, which was banned in 2019 under the anti-terror law.
The group had e-mailed to the media fraternity a statement calling for a shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir on February 9 and 11 to commemorate the hanging anniversaries of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat.
Guru was hanged in Tihar jail on February 9, 2013, following his conviction in the 2001 Parliament attack case while Bhat was hanged on February 11, 1984, following his conviction in a case involving the murder of an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) official.
Speaking to The Federal, Naseer Ganai said he received a call from a senior counter-insurgency officer and that he thought he could get a news scoop. “I decided to visit their headquarters with the hope of getting an exclusive story, but I was questioned for reporting on the JKLF’s strike call. Like all journalists, I had received the JKLF statement in my Gmail inbox,” Ganai said.
Nabi said the police asked him about the source of a WhatsApp message that talked about the JKLF call for a strike. “I had copied the same (details about the JKLF strike) after it was posted by a journalist. They asked me about the source and from where I got it,” he told the media later.
Ganai and Nabi are not the only ones who were summoned by the police or its counter-insurgency grid since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 last year, a move that revoked the special status of the erstwhile state and bifurcated it into two union territories.
Earlier, Irfan Hakeem of The Economic Times and Bashaarat Masood of The Indian Express were also summoned by the same Srinagar-based counter-insurgency grid over a story that was carried by all major newspapers and news portals.
The story was about the restoration of broadband services to a selected group of tourism players after signing an undertaking that restricted the use of social media websites, banned posting political content and allowed government forces access to the devices as and when required.
Besides, Peerzada Ashiq, who works for The Hindu, was also summoned by the Srinagar SSP in August. The authorities wanted him to “reveal the sources” of a story that he had filed on the mass detentions in Kashmir.
Media fraternity allege harassment
Ishfaq Tantry, the general secretary of Srinagar-based Kashmir Press Club (KPC), issued a statement deploring the practice of summoning journalists in Kashmir. “It is definitely harassment,” he said.
Members of the KPC also met Inspector General of J&K Police, Vijay Kumar, over the matter on Saturday evening. However, IG Kumar told The Indian Express, “There was no harassment but a journalist was called for questioning.”
Authorities had snapped even the low bandwidth 2G mobile internet and imposed Section 144 in the region following the JKLF call for a strike. However, it was restored later in the evening. Additional paramilitary units have been deployed at sensitive locations until February 11 with the aim to deal with any potential law-and-order situation.
Meanwhile, the local police has registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the JKLF for calling for a strike on the death anniversaries of Guru and Bhat.