Representational image
Representational image

At the age of 22, Kamran Yousuf found himself detained without charge under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. This was in September 2017, and the National Investigation Agency was of the opinion that he had indulged in stone pelting and mobilising support against security personnel through social media.

According to the NIA, Yousuf was allegedly involved in stone pelting incidents besides organising groups of youth who would throw stones at security personnel involved in counter insurgency operations. Yousuf, who had often been warned by the local police, was allegedly mobilising the youth and clicking their pictures for circulation in local and national newspapers. The NIA in its charge sheet had listed the "moral duty of a journalist" to highlight what it claimed was improper conduct.

In the months that followed his detention, many had spoken out against the move. While the Press Council of India wrote to the NIA and other officials flagging concerns about the freedom of the press, others including then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had spoken to Rajnath Singh seeking his release.

Eventually, in March 2018, the photojournalist was granted bail by a special court in New Delhi. Since then, the political situation in the Valley has changed greatly. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has become two union territories and many claim that a year after the abrogation of Article 370, the Kashmir valley has ushered in a 'new' era.

But how different are things? Going by a series of tweets put out by Yousuf on Tuesday, problems such as police brutality continue to persist. While he began the thread by recalling the detention period, the photographer also spoke about how on Tuesday he had been attacked by police officials as he went about his work.

"I was 22 years old when I was falsely implicated in 2017 and jailed for six months in Tihar. I was the first Kashmiri journalist, who was booked under draconian UAPA. My only fault was that I was doing my job professionally," he began.

But while that might be a bygone era, for Yousuf, the situation is far from normal. As he writes on Twitter, he had been taking pictures in the Marwal Kakpora area when he was "attacked and brutally beaten up by policemen who were accompanying a deputy superintendent of police."

"There were at least ten policemen who pounced on me and hit me with riffle butts without any reason. I tried to plead with them without any success. If I hadn’t gathered my strength and escaped, I have no doubt that they would have killed me. It was a targeted attack on a group of photojournalists and all of us were doing only doing our job," he adds.

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Free Press Journal