India’s Independence Day was marked by strikes and heavily-policed streets in Indian-administered Kashmir.
|Shafi, a photojournalist, was beaten and detained by security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir [Faisal Khan]|
Security forces have beaten and detained two photographers for several hours in Indian-administered Kashmir after picking them up while they covered a street protest in the capital Srinagar.
Narciso Contreras, who works for the California-based Zuma Press agency, and Showkat Shafi, a freelance photographer who has contributed to the Reuters news agency and Al Jazeera online, said they were attacked while covering protests against Indian rule in the old city on Friday.
“I ran away after police and soldiers charged at the stone pelters and got trapped inside a tailor’s shop with some protesters. The soldiers descended there and started beating every one, including me,” Contreras said.
“Later they took me to a police station. I repeatedly told them I’m a foreign journalist, but they continued beating me as if I was some criminal,” he said, adding that their behaviour changed after he identified himself.
Contreras, a Mexican national, was being examined by a doctor in a Srinagar hospital following his release.
Shafi, who visited the SMHS hospital and was then referred to the SK Institute of Medical Sciences for extra tests, told Al Jazeera that he was beaten with sticks and had multiple bruises on his body.
“We were covering the protests, standing on the side of the demonstrators, when the police charged the protesters … we were verbally abused and beaten with bamboo sticks and batons,” he said.
Showkat Ahmed, a police officer, said the two were detained along with other protesters.
“But we freed the two after their identification,” he said. He denied that the two were beaten by the police.
Kashmir dispatch reported that witnesses said that the journalists were dragged to a nearby police station, where they were detained for almost five hours.
Another photojournalist at the scene, Rajesh Iyer, told Greater Kashmir that Contreras was beaten with canes even after he presented his press credentials.
|Click for more coverage on the conflict in Kashmir|
According to Shafi, the beatings continued at the police station where he was placed in a cell with detained protesters.
Doctors confirmed both photographers received bruises all over their bodies.
The Kashmir Press Photographers Association condemned the attack on the photographers and demanded an independent probe.
“Let’s remember that incidents like these have become a routine here,” said Farooq Khan, the association’s president.
“Police rarely allow us to discharge our professional duties.”‘
The photojournalists were covering a protest that turned into clashes between stone pelters and paramilitary forces following the conclusion of midday prayers on Friday.
Youths taking part in the demonstrations said they were observing ‘Martyrs Day’ following the call by the chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Recent protests in which stone-throwing youths have clashed with government forces have followed a summer of relative peace. Last year, an estimated 117 people were killed in violent clashes.
Since 1989, a violent, separatist campaign and an ensuing crackdown by Indian forces has left tens of thousands dead.
The armed rebellion has largely been suppressed, with the numbers of armed fighters in the valley reportedly the lowest in twenty-one years.