Media at Work

The fury of Jhelum that unleashed hell in summer capital inundating properties and putting people at risk triggered a rescue mission spearheaded by countless local brave-hearts and media men. Kashmir Life details the rescue efforts shouldered by the scribes

Ace Kashmiri journalist Parvaiz Bukhari during the rescue operation in Srinagar.

Journalists of the valley have been at the forefront of everything befalling Kashmir. And so it happened this time. Jhelum’s overflow devastated what came its way. With no one on the ground except volunteers and relatives rescuing people, at many instances, it was people associated with media who while discharging their professional duties, turned saviours for hundreds of people.

Editor of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari, along with few other journalists navigated in a boat amid 15-feet deep water in city centre Lal Chowk for days and rescued hundreds of marooned civilians, many of them Indian tourists and Kashmiri Pandits. He was accompanied by News X  TV journalist Idrees Lone and another staffer of Rising Kashmir, Nazir Ganie.

Journalist Shujaat Bukhari with a group of kids rescued at the peak of floods from a locality near Lal Chowk. Photo: Facebook

“Our team rescued more than 800 people and the temporary relief in adopted areas is in full swing,” Bukhari wrote in an article in Rising Kashmir on September 19.

Hyderabad based TV channel ETV’s Kashmir correspondent Rifat Abdullah remained trapped for several days in inundated Rajbagh, but that didn’t let his spirits down. Rifat went on to save the lives of more than 300 trapped locals after being rescued. Rifat also captured terrible scenes of Jhelum in his camera when it spilled over Rajbagh.

Shafat Siddiqi

The calamity that struck Kashmir, head to toe, didn’t even spare media men. On September 10, Kashmir witnessed its first media casualty after Shafat Siddiqui, a senior photographer, was washed off by water current near civil secretariat on September 7. His body was retrieved five days later, with his cameras still hanging around his neck.

Veteran photojournalist Habib Naqash working with Greater Kashmir who remained trapped for three days at his Srinagar press enclave residence was rescued in an inflatable boat by another GK staffer Syed Imran Ali Hamdani.

Indian Express deputy editor and senior journalist Muzamil Jaleel flew to Srinagar from Delhi when Jhelum swelled over

Muzamil Jaleel
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar. Jaleel, while widely reporting on the condition of trapped civilians and government’s response to the calamity, participated in relief and rescue operations in remote areas of the flood-affected Srinagar.

Prominent journalist Parvaiz Bukhari along with Associated Press (AP) Kashmir correspondent Aijaz Hussain and two other men, was rescued by local volunteers four days after remaining marooned on the rooftop of his Rajbagh residence. After being rescued, both Parvaiz and Aijaz, overlooked rescue operations of other trapped civilians in Rajbagh.

Gowhar Geelani, another journalist and a columnist, was sailing in floodwaters for more than a week, rescuing many and providing succour to the affected. Now when the rescue is over, Geelani is focusing on managing and coordinating the supply of medicines for flood-affected children and women. According to him, many of his Kashmiri friends living outside the state have pooled in a good number of vaccines, water-purifiers and other drugs, for the flood survivors.

Even when Srinagar’s press enclave was submerged in 20-feet water, damaging offices of several publications, journalists didn’t remain confined to homes. Some of the media houses, on an emergency basis, shifted their offices to other areas, unaffected by the floods. Many of them posted instant news updates on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Shujaat Bukhari and fellow journalist on way to identification of buildings where people were trapped in floods in Lal Chowk Srinagar in September 2014. Pic: Facebook

Two major local English dailies Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir resumed their print editions one and a half week after, from their temporary offices. The flood has damaged offices and walls of many local as well as India-based news publications in the Srinagar press enclave where the stench caused by floodwaters is unbearable. Electricity hasn’t been restored yet and nobody from the Srinagar Municipal Committee has bothered to clear up the debris and muck carpeted in the lane.

Former BBC correspondent and legendary journalist Yusuf Jameel hosted Nikhil Chopra, a tea trader at Abi Guzar, his wife and two children, for about one week at his residence in Naseem Bagh, Hazratbal, after they were rescued by a group of local volunteers.

Malik Kaisar, a graphic designer associated with Kashmir Life, rescued dozens of trapped civilians in Batamaloo locality during the initial days of floods. The group, Kaisar was part of, also distributed relief and medicines among the people holing up on rooftops. Kaisar also took part in the voluntary effort of plugging breaches in Jhelum at Noor Bagh in the old city.

Altaf Qadri, a photojournalist working with Associated Press (AP) America, while dwelling in floodwaters along with rescue teams, lent his hand to many flood survivors before being sailed to safety. He was seen in Rajbagh, Mehjoor Nagar and Jawahar Nagar belt rescuing people alongside performing his job.

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