May 2001 News

‘Shoot them’ DIG Mullick ordered his men and we said our prayers

10 May 2001
The Indian Express
JAVEED SHAH

Srinagar: When BSF DIG A K Mullick ordered men of the 194 battalion to teach journalists a lesson for daring to take pictures of bodies at Magam without his approval on Thursday, it was sheer terror. The Indian Express photographer JAVEED SHAH, who was on the spot to cover the handing over of the bodies of those who died in Monday’s IED blast, recalls the harrowing experience. ‘‘It was 8.15 am and we, around 20 journalists — mostly photographers — had positioned ourselves atop a raised platform to click pictures of the bodies being carried by the villagers towards Magam Chowk. The bodies had been lined up at the Chowk and people had allowed three BSF vehicles to pass. Suddenly, these vehicles screeched to a halt. BSF jawans jumped out and without any provocation began throwing stones at us, asking us to come down. We screamed ‘Press Press Press’ but they were soon upon us, hitting us furiously with rifle butts. All hell broke loose. Cameras were snatched, smashed on the hard metalled road and thrown into the nearby canal. Scared, we ran for our lives and took refuge at a house in the village. Some of us had broken down and were crying bitterly. Luckily the house-owner had a telephone and we could call senior officers of the police and other officials, pleading to save us. We were told help was being rushed. Crouching in fear and hiding from Mullick’s men, we reached Magam police station and waited. Soon DIG R P Singh of the BSF arrived from Srinagar. He was quite apologetic and asked us to take him to the spot where the incident had happened. There he asked a jawan to jump into the canal and search for the cameras. Soon the man emerged with a video lens — the rest had been washed away. We soon realised that DIG A K Mullick, BSF’s area sector commander, who had ordered the assault, wasn’t through with us. He now wanted us to explain why we had come without seeking his permission. We told him politely that we were only doing our duty, the way we had been doing it during the past 11 years of militancy. But the officer said his 22 years of service weighed more than our ‘‘petty’’ journalistic assignments. In a drunken stupor, he began abusing us. When DIG Singh asked him to show some restraint, Mullick snapped at him rudely, asking him to shut up since he was the sector commander. Saying we were ‘‘anti-nationals’’, he blamed us for Wednesday’s Magam blast, saying it was our handiwork. When Shujahat Bukhari of The Hindu protested, the officer grabbed him by the collar and barked his command: ‘‘Shoot them.’’ The guns were corked and we said our prayers, but they did not fire. Instead, for the second time, they began hitting us with rifle butts. We were again running towards the police station. Blood was oozing out of the head of one of our colleagues, who later received 12 stitches. Another had his arm broken. When we reached there, the villagers told us the BSF men were coming and would kill us. Our ordeal ended when senior officials, including DG Police A K Suri, and minister of state for home Mushtaq Ahmad Lone arrived. They promised us action and we then rushed our injured colleagues to the hospital. Photographic equipment worth Rs 50 lakh had been destroyed by then.’’

 

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