Another protest over the death of a boy in Kashmir had turned deadly in recent weeks. Police had fired upon protests early Tuesday morning that had erupted after 17- year-old Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat of Gangbug Batamaloo was allegedly caught, beaten up and dumped into a near-dry stream by police. Fayaz Ahmad Wani, 35 died in the police fire on violent protestors.
I was now following the funeral procession of the two from Gangbugh locality of Srinagar, as it marched towards the Martyrs Graveyard at Eidgah. It is a norm in Kashmir to bury the people killed in such incidents in the Eidgah cemetery. Keeping the sensibilities in mind, the funerals are generally not touched by the security forces.
The procession reached the main road (Bye Pass) at Tengpora. There were slogans, there were mourners overwhelmed with grief, but everything was peaceful.
And then all of a sudden it changed.
Police and paramilitary waiting for the procession at Tengpora stopped it.
Without any provocation, they fired teargas, and charged with batons. Apparently they had orders to stop it from moving to Eidgah.
Chaos began. Battered with teargas and batons the procession split with people running into two opposite side streets.
I and few fellow photographers decided to rush to the street where people carried the bodies. As we reached there we saw some of the people trying their best to hold on to the bodies.
The bodies were still on the shoulders. Then police and paramilitary charged again with batons, teargas and aerial fire. People carrying the bodies (on stretchers) were dispersed.
The shoulders carrying the bodies were displaced with force. One person was holding to his ground, despite all the battering – the father of Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat. He clung to the body of this son, trying to save it – from desecration.
He looked on in shock, (so did we) that his son was not being spared even after death.
Policeman pulled him. One paramilitary trooper banged a cane on his head. Blood oozed out of his head, on his shoulders and back. I clicked.
Then I heard scream of “pakdo pakdo’ – paramilitary men chanting ‘catch them’. Before I could understand anything I heard a cane banging on the head of fellow photojournalist Farooq Javed.
For some moments all I could see was canes raining on us from all sides. I tried to escape, when I saw photojournalist Tawseef Mustafa on the ground with a group of paramilitary men beating him to pulp.
As a conflict photographer we rarely have the privilege of intervening. We see brutality, but keep clicking – If we are let to – taking the refuge of lens to save ourselves a similar fate. But when the barrier breaks, it becomes a matter of survival. I rushed to rescue Tawseef. The paramilitary broke onto me again. A cane hit my right arm, injuring me badly.
Tawseef required an immediate surgery at the hospital. Later I came to know at least a dozen lensmen had been injured. The wounds will take some time to heal. But some scars remain there for eternity, like the image of the father trying to save his dead son.