Srinagar- Auqib Javeed, a young journalist has accused the cyber police in Kashmir of assaulting and harassing him over a story he had filed about alleged intimidation of social media users critical of the government by the police.
The story titled, ‘The real cyberbully: Police in Kashmir question Twitter Users’ which appeared in ‘Article 14” a New Delhi based web portal mentions about the actions taken by Cyber Cell of J&K Police against many social media users for their posts on Article 370, Internet ban and an alleged extrajudicial killing in Kashmir”.
Auqib, an accredited journalist with Kashmir Observer, was verbally summoned by the Cyber Police station on September 18.
According to his account of the incident which was published by the “Article 14”, Javeed states that since he was satisfied by his balanced and fair work, he informed about the incident to his colleagues at the Kashmir Press Club, where he is an executive member besides the editors of “Article 14”.
He was accompanied by two fellow journalists to the police station. In the account, Javeed alleges that he was slapped twice by a masked cop outside the room of Superintendent of Police of the Cyber Wing, Tahir Ashraf Bhatii.
“As we entered the Cargo Centre, our phones were taken. We were frisked and allowed in… I was now anxious. I could feel something was wrong. As I started walking inside the corridor, my heart beat faster,” he wrote in a first person account.
Auqib said when he was waiting outside the SP”s office as the cop accompanying him had gone inside, someone approached him from behind and slapped him.
“I heard the sounds of boots approaching, and as I turned to see who it was, a masked policeman slapped me hard on my left cheek. He did sound like a local. ”Kis liye aaya hai tu (why have you come?),” he demanded. Once I recovered from the shock of the slap, I said, ”SP saab has called me”. He slapped me hard again and left,” Auqib alleged.
“It was the first time I had ever been hit. As I stood there in a fog of shock, I somehow and vaguely rationalized this assault as the cost of doing journalism in Kashmir. I was not the first to be intimidated,” Auqib wrote.
Auqib said he wanted to know under what law he was summoned by the SP of Cyber Police and verbally abused and slapped by the cops.
He was then sent to the SP, Incharge of the police’s cyber cell, Tahir Ashraf Bhatti’s room. Auqib writes that the SP questioned him about “how could he write that cyber police are bullying people”.
According to the journalist, Bhatti demanded to know why he had used a picture of the Cargo center, when it was not the cyber police station, and why he had written a “concocted” story.
“He started abusing my mother and sister and kept up the shouting,” Auqib has written. Auqib said he told the SP that the story was based on facts but the picture and headline were written by the editors at Article-14.
“No, this is a fake and baseless story,” the SP said, according to Auqib.
However, Cyber Police refuted all these charges.
In a press statement regarding the incident, the cyber police said, “the allegation of excesses by Police officials/officer published subsequently by Article-14 and other social media handles are misleading and factually incorrect, hence refuted.”
— Cyber Police Kashmir (@Cyberpolicekmr) September 21, 2020
“Javeed has committed a mistake of using the wrong picture and when Cyber Police conveyed this to him, he called his editor and removed the picture from the story,” the press release added.
But response poured on Twitter in support of the journalist from various politicians and journalists.
Assault on Journalist Draws Instant Response
Peoples Conference chief, Sajjad Lone, called the act as “pure savagery” which is aimed at humiliation.
This is pure savagery. This is an ordeal aimed at humiliation. And it is a helpless situation. Such savagery is a badge of honour in the current conditions. Won’t b surprised if the officer is rewarded. https://t.co/QPqpTkSxyj
— Sajad Lone (@sajadlone) September 21, 2020
Iltija Mufti, daughter of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, also tweeted from her mother’s account in support of Auqib.
‘I want to ask SP Cyber Cell Police under what law was I summoned, verbally abused & slapped?What did it have to do with my mother & sister?I spoke to you & quoted you extensively.If you disagreed with any of it,you could’ve sent a rebuttal’ https://t.co/z52XPcQ0Hm
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) September 21, 2020
Human Rights activist Khurram Parvez tweeted about it saying that it is a “very serious allegation”.
This is a very serious allegation. @AuqibJaveed wrote a story about intimidation of Twitter users, by police. Later he was summoned by cyber police and slapped & intimidated, which only confirms the allegations carried in the initial story. https://t.co/M4zNV5spfB
— Khurram Parvez (@KhurramParvez) September 21, 2020
Journalist Athar Parvaiz also came forward in support of Auqib and tweeted that questions asked by him should be answered.
“I want to ask the SP of the Cyber Police: under what law was I summoned, verbally abused and slapped? And what did it have to do with my mother and sister?… If you disagreed with any of it, you could have sent a rebuttal.” These questions need answers.https://t.co/Dg53twLr0k
— @AtharParvaiz (@AtharParvaiz) September 21, 2020
Journalist Ahmer Khan describes Auqib’s experience as a “harrowing experience”.
“It was the first time I had ever been hit. As I stood there in a fog of shock, I somehow & vaguely rationalised this assault as the cost of doing journalism in Kashmir.”
— Ahmer Khan (@ahmermkhan) September 21, 2020
Akash Banerjee who runs a Political & Social Satire platform, DeshBhakt, tweeted, “The Kashmir Cyber police says this article is ‘misleading’…. One certainly hopes so, otherwise, this is a wake-up call on how dissent on social media will be closely monitored for all in the near future.”
The Kashmir Cyber police says this article is ‘misleading’…. One certainly hopes so, otherwise this is a wake up call on how dissent on social media will be closely monitored for all in the near future. 😳https://t.co/a6ukEJ7795
— Akash Banerjee (@TheDeshBhakt) September 20, 2020
Founding Editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan questioned the Cyber Police in a tweet: “So instead of new police building the old building was shown by @Article14live and for this @Tahir_A summons the reporter? @kashmirpolice cyber head can’t send an email pointing out this ridiculously trivial matter? Who will buy this drivel, drafted to justify his abuse of power?”
So instead of new police building the old building was shown by @Article14live and for this @Tahir_A summons the reporter? @kashmirpolice cyber head can’t send email pointing out this ridiculously trivial matter? Who will buy this drivel, drafted to justify his abuse of power? https://t.co/V3F80msZ4E
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) September 21, 2020
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