Award-winning photojournalist Masrat Zahra has alleged her parents were thrashed and harassed by police in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week. The police have reportedly refuted her claims, calling them “baseless.”
Taking to Twitter on July 25, Peter Mackler-awardee Zahra wrote the “high on power” cops in her home state beat up her parents in Batamaloo, Srinagar, seizing her father’s identity card. “One fails to understand how an elderly couple deserved this high handed behavior of JKP,” she said.
This is everyday life of Kashmiris . Are we in a police state ? Is this how civilians are treated?
— Masrat Zahra (@Masratzahra) July 25, 2021
A prominent critic of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and a leading voice highlighting atrocities in Kashmir, Zahra was named by the state police in an FIR under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act last year in April for “anti-national posts” on social media. Read more here.
Masrat Zahra Claims Parents Thrashed, Cops Deny: Here’s What Happened
Zahra, who divides her time between Germany and India, is currently not in the country, as per a Newslaundry report. Her father, talking to the publication, said they were stopped on the main road in Batamaloo by police demanding to know why his wife was not wearing a mask.
“We showed it to them. But they began beating me,” he said, adding that no bystanders came forward to help. Zahra’s mother further alleges police grabbed her and threatened to kill her husband.
Cops have refuted the family’s claims, saying they seized the man’s ID card for verification to avoid further engagement, since the woman was allegedly abusing them. “…the family background says it all,” the Batamaloo police station chief was quoted saying in Newslaundry‘s report.
In another tweet July 27, Zahra slammed the police statement as “ridiculous” with pictures alleging her father’s arm was bruised by the police. “…they cannot thrash people in the day and at the end of day when questioned deny the thrashing.”
Posting the picture of my father who was thrashed by police. One can clearly see his bruised arm. I didn't want to post these pictures but yesterday's police statement is ridiculous and they cannot thrash people in the day and at the end of day when questioned deny the thrashing. pic.twitter.com/TM6wzEXUdO
— Masrat Zahra (@Masratzahra) July 27, 2021
The Network of Women in Media, India (NWIM) has spoken strongly against the alleged attack on Zahra’s parents in a statement, condemning it as “tactics to pressurise and silence her, since she is currently living and working outside Kashmir.”
Who Is Masrat Zahra?
Masrat Zahra is among the most-known journalists from the Kashmir valley, with her work having appeared across reputed publications both national and international. Her work largely focuses on conditions in Kashmir owing to political and security conflicts, with a special focus on women.
In 2020, Zahra came to wide notice, winning the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award and the prestigious Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.
After being booked under the UAPA in 2020, Zahra had given an interview to The Print where she said, “I am among the very few female photojournalists in Kashmir and have been working really hard to learn and to create my space for the past four years. They (police) want to silence me. They want to suppress me as I bring out the repressed voices and stories of Kashmir.”