Marked on a calendar that hangs by the kitchen wall, Mohammad Manan’s father, Gulzar Ahmed Dar has scribbled the names of his two sons, and a few other words in boxes that cage the October dates.
“Hanan, Manan, Cargo.”
“I have lost track of how many times my sons were summoned this month,” says Fehmida, mother of Manan, a photojournalist who as per the family was detained on 10th of October.
Manan’s detention was followed by the arrest of his younger brother, Hanan.
Manan, 25, Fehmida’s eldest son is a photojournalist. Hanan, 23, the younger one, is a collegiate.
“What was their fault?” Fehmida broke down demanding explanation as to why her two sons were arrested.
On 20th October, NIA in a statement said that it had arressted 9 people in a case related to “conspiracy for undertaking violent militancy acts in J&K and other major cities”. Amongst the accused was also Manan’s name.
“I have seen Manan work in the field, he is a fine journalist and always stood out from the crowd. He doesn’t deserve to be in jail,” a colleague of Manan said.
Manan’s work as a photojournalist has been published by many international news organisations and has also appeared in The Guardian’s compilation of Twenty Photos of the Week.“On 9th of October, at 8:30 pm, I received a call from Batmaloo Police Station, asking me to bring Manan to the police station,” Manan’s father, Gulzar Ahmed Dar told Free Press Kashmir.
“When we reached the police station, we were told to come back in the morning, and we went again next morning on the 10th of October,” he added. “At the police station, the constable informed me that Manan has to be taken to Cargo, the infamous interrogation center,” Gulzar said.
“They put him in a vehicle in front of my eyes and said they are going to Cargo,” said Gulzar, adding, “I asked them why is he being taken to Cargo and they gave me no explanation.”
While speaking Free Press Kashmir, SHO Batmaloo, Aijaz Ahmed, denied that Manan was summoned to the police station at all. “Speak to the NIA, this is their matter”.For a week, Manan’s father said he visited Cargo everyday and was told that his son is not lodged there.
“We were extremely worried when they refused to take the responsibility that Manan was with them,” he added.
On 13th October, NIA had also raided Manan’s residence, and on 17th October, Manan’s younger brother, Hanan was arrested.It was only on 22nd October, late evening, when Manan’s cousin, Yasir, got a call from NIA, informing him that they had arrested Manan and he will be presented before the Lower Court the next day.
“They told us to come to Lower Court, and we went there,” said Manan’s cousin sister, Huma, who was hopeful that she would get to see Manan after days.
“But they did not present him in the court citing bad weather as reason. The hearing commenced online and the lawyer informed us that Manan will be taken to Delhi on remand on 24th October,” she added.
“Currently in NIA custody, Manan is to be presented before the Patiala House Court on 30th October,” Manan’s lawyer, Sathish Tamta confirmed while speaking to Free Press Kashmir.
“They asked us why there are photos of armed personnels in his camera, and we told them that he is a photojournalist, and is normal for him to document all of this,” Manan’s cousin said.
“Manan is a passionate cricketer. He doesn’t deserve to be in jail,” said his mother, inconsolably.Manan’s younger brother, a second year college student was detained on 17th October, as per the family.
However, NIA took the responsibilty for the arrest in a report that came out on 22nd October.
“Hanan has been sent to a 30 day judicial custody, and is currently lodged in Tihar jail,” his lawyer, confirmed to Free Press Kashmir.
In October, Indian armed forces have detained over 700 people in Jammu and Kashmir in response to the killing of seven civilians, including those from the Kashmiri Pandit, Sikh and Muslim communities, in six days, news agency AFP has reported.
International Press Freedom body, Committe to Protect Jounralists (CPJ) reported, “since October 8, authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have detained four journalists, subsequently releasing two of them, and questioned one other.”
The journalists that were summoned earlier are Salman Shah, Suhail Dar, Mukhtar Zahoor, Majid Hyderi, and Sajad Gul.
Salman and Suhail continue to remain in detention, while others were released after questioning.
CPJ had called on the authorites to “immediately release journalists Salman Shah and Suhail Dar, cease detaining and questioning journalists in relation to their work, and commit to allowing the media to operate freely and independently.”
“The growing number of detained journalists in Kashmir demonstrates authorities’ continuous and blatant lack of respect for press freedom,” Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director had said.
Meanwhile, a Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan has been impriosned in Srinagar’s Central Jail for last three years for not revealing his sources.