Journalists stranded on roads all night
Srinagar: Media persons in Kashmir were prevented from covering the funeral or visiting the residence of veteran pro-freedom leader and former Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani. Even finding information was difficult amid suspension of internet and phone services by the government.
The 92-year-old ailing leader passed away Wednesday night at his Hyderpora residence-cum-office. Soon after his death, hundreds of government forces comprising police and CRPF troops descended in the area and blocked all roads leading towards the residence of Geelani. Barricades alongside police and paramilitary forces were laid at the entrance of the lane leading to his house at Rehmatabad in Hyderpora.
As soon as the news about his passing broke out late at night, reporters and photojournalists rushed towards his residence to cover the funeral. But they were stopped by a posse of forces at Hyderpora Chowk, a few hundred metres away from Geelani’s residence. They spent almost all night on the road but were not allowed to move ahead. Initially, a few journalists reached the spot and captured photos and videos. But they were forced out after the entire area was sealed by forces.
Tahir Bhat, a journalist based in Srinagar, said that he left home along with his counterparts at midnight and reached Baghat Chowk at 12 am but security forces stopped them from moving ahead. “We bypassed the forces and barricades and reached Hyderpora Chowk through the interior. But from there we were not allowed ahead and finally we returned after an hour staying under Hyderpora flyover,” he said.
Even as Geelani was buried under tight security, journalists were still not allowed to perform their duties. On Thursday afternoon, according to Bhat, they were stopped at the entrance of the lane leading to his house by police. “We were able to reach the entrance of his lane after hiding our camera. Our bike with a press sticker was not allowed by police at a barricade as they told us the media is not allowed beyond. We kept the motorcycle parked and used another vehicle. We also adopted another route and reached the entrance of his family after spending two-three hours,” he said.
Finally, police denied permission to move ahead at the entrance of the lane leading to the residence of Geelani, Bhat said. “We were not allowed to click photos or videos there,” he added.
A journalist who managed to reach Hyderpora Chowk after bypassing several barricades said he spent the night under Hyderpora flyover with the hope of getting some photos. He said they clicked photos of roads with security forces at Hyderpora Chowk. Even a few wedding cavalcades were stopped at Hyderpora Chowk and diverted through different routes, he said. “We clicked their photos and videos as there was nothing else to cover,” he said.
At Batamaloo, another journalist said that forces stopped them and they used interior routes until they reached Parimpora-Hyderpora highway. “But on the highway, we were stopped by policemen. They said they have orders not to allow anyone. We used another route through Rambagh but the road was also sealed. It was very tough and risky to reach Hyderpora Chowk in the dark,” he said.
At 3:30 am, he said, he returned along with other journalists to the press enclave in Srinagar after being prevented from covering the last rites of Geelani.
Amid this, internet and mobile network was suspended in Kashmir. The worst-hit were journalists and news outlets as they could not work. Even leased lines and broadband services which most newspaper offices use were suspended.
A senior journalist said they were not able to publish their newspaper as internet and phone suspension hampered their work. “How can we work in the absence of communication with colleagues or anyone else? We do not know anything about the situation from districts or for that matter in Srinagar,” he said.