Why is Kashmiri journalist Sajad Gul in Jail?

Sajad Gul, a journalist with The Kashmirwala has been arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police days after he posted a video of women raising anti-India slogans following the killing of a militant.

Gul was detained in an army raid on Wednesday night at around 10 pm and was later handed over to police.

“He was detained by the Army on Wednesday at 10:00 pm and at around midnight we came to know that he is under police custody and after two days we came to know First Information report (FIR) has been lodged against him (Sajad Gul),” his brother [who wants to be anonymous] told Maktoob.

Sajad Gul, a journalism student, has been a contributor to various media outlets. He posted the video of women protesting against the killing of Salim Parray, a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) commander.

In a statement, police issued to the press, “Sajad Ahmad Dar, son of Ghulam Muhammad Dar of Shahgund Hajin, runs a Twitter account in the name of Sajad Gul is always in search of anti-government news and uploads tweets, which are not based on facts in order to provoke the people against the government and to spread enmity against the country among people”.“

The news about his detention was concealed by the family for two days due to police assurance that “there will not be any FIR against him”.

Later he was charged section 120B (party to criminal conspiracy), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), and 505B (fear or alarm to the public) sections of the Indian penal code (IPC).

In February 2021, Sajad Gul was booked under FIR12/2021 with sections 147(punishment for rioting), 447 (punishment for criminal trespassing), and 353(assaulting public servant) for reporting the high-handedness of a government official in a local magazine called “The Kashmirwalla”.

“I have been struggling with depression since the case. Initially, I used to scream the entire night, and I was scared. I am also a civil service aspirant and was preparing for competitive exams besides my profession, but my dreams are shattered now. I am pushed to the wall. It pains and drives to extremes of vengefulness,” Sajad told Maktoob a few months back.

Many journalists in Kashmir has been drawing attention to the widespread crackdown on journalist in the valley. There has been strict censorship and other intimidation from Indian authorities violating press freedom, which rampantly increased after the abrogation of article 370.

Several journalists are booked under India’s stringent terror law, UAPA.

Gowhar Geelani, a Kashmiri author and journalist, thinks journalism is never a cakewalk in a conflict zone, but it has been made impossible in Kashmir.

“Journalists should neither crawl nor bend for they offer hope to the voiceless, marginalized and disadvantaged sections of the society by telling their stories,” says Geelani.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Saturday demanded Indian authorities to immediately release the journalist and stated that they are “deeply disturbed” by the arrest of Sajad Gul.

CPJ asked India to “drop their investigation related to his journalistic work.”

Meanwhile, police on Saturday said that it has produced a charge sheet before the court of JMIC Sumbal for judicial determination against a journalist from north Kashmir for allegedly “trying to disrupt peace and tranquillity”.

“Journalism has become the biggest crime in Kashmir,” one of Gul’s relatives told Maktoob.

Sajid Raina contributed to this report from Bandipora.