At least three photojournalists on Friday alleged they were beaten up by police personnel as they covered stone-pelting in downtown Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. Several other photo and video journalists, including a woman, alleged that police personnel chased and verbally abused them.

“Around 4 pm, we reached Khanyar to cover clashes in the area,” Muzamil Mattoo, a freelance photographer, said. “There was minor stone-pelting. We were in between personnel of the J&K police and CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] near Khanyar Chowk when a policeman pointed his pellet gun towards us and fired.”

Mattoo also alleged that the policemen tried to force him into a police vehicle and arrest him. “A policeman beat me up with a stick,” he said. “I got bruises on my arm and leg. He also tried to arrest me. He repeatedly asked me why I took pictures of the protest.”

Idrees Abbas, a photojournalist with the Urdu daily Roshni reached the spot minutes after Mattoo. He said he saw the police beat him up. “I saw two, three policemen surrounding Muzamil and one of them was beating him up,” said Abbas. “One of the policemen was choking Muzamil.”

Abbas said he was also assaulted and chased by policemen when he tried to take pictures of the incident. “A policeman saw me clicking the photos,” he said. “He rushed towards me and hit me with a baton on my back. I crossed the street to save myself but they continued chasing and abusing us.”

Adil Abbas, a freelance photojournalist, also said he was assaulted. Masrat Zahra, also in the group of journalists, alleged that the policemen hurled “dirty abuses” at her.

Srinagar Senior Superintendent of Police Haseeb Mughal claimed he did not have any information about the episode. “If there’s any such issue, they [photojournalists] should file a complaint against it in the concerned police station,” he said.

Sajjad Shah, superintendent of police, Srinagar City (North), also said that he was not aware of journalists being assaulted. “I don’t know their identity. Please convey [a message] to them to meet me in my office tomorrow,” he said.

Since morning, CRPF and local police personnel had been heavily deployed in downtown Srinagar to prevent public gatherings ahead of Friday prayers. Since August 5, when the Centre scrapped special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and split the state into two Union Territories, authorities have not allowed Friday prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid in the area.

The stringent restrictions this Friday also had to do with special afternoon prayers, known as Khwaja Digar and held annually at the shrine of Khwaja Naqashband Sahib in downtown Srinagar. The special prayers are traditionally attended by thousands. On Friday, the police stopped Khwaja Digar for the first time in its recorded history.

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