David Devadas, a senior journalist who has covered Kashmir for the last 25 years, has sought Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's intervention in ensuring his safety after a “brutal assault” by a police escort here on September 5.
Narrating his experience in a six-page letter to Mr. Abdullah, the senior journalist said that he feared for his life. “After this experience, I am apprehensive about my safety. Through that evening, it became clear to me that rules, procedures and court guidelines are treated with contempt by the police force. I would be grateful, sir, if you would kindly advise me how best to proceed and whether you consider it safe for me to remain in Kashmir,” he wrote.
Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Devadas said “it speaks volumes of how a commoner in Kashmir is suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to uphold the rule of law.” There should be improvement in the system so that people did not face this brutality, he said. “You can well imagine if this happens to me in the heart of the city what a common Kashmiri would be facing.”
Giving details of the incident, Mr. Devadas wrote: “I was crossing the Rambagh bridge in my car around 6 p.m. on September 5 in heavy traffic, which did not allow my vehicle to make progress down the road. I heard a loud bang at the back of my car. I realised that it had been hit by some men who were coming behind in a Maruti Gypsy, a security vehicle. Behind them was a white car flying the national flag and another Gypsy behind that. Those who were in this convoy had apparently got the impression that my car was obstructing their way, and became angry with me. Immediately after hitting my car from behind, this convoy swerved into the lane to the left. The convoy moved forward a few yards at high speed but then had to stop owing to traffic in that lane too.”
“At the next turn, a traffic policeman stopped my vehicle. I was told to hand over the vehicle. I asked them why they wanted my vehicle but they insisted that I give it to them. Then they told me to wait until men from the police station came there. I was kept waiting there for a long time. I explained to them that I was on my way to meet an ex-MP and needed to hurry, but they were oblivious to my pleas,” he wrote. “In an effort to seek some clarity, I called the Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir Range, S.M. Sahai, from my mobile phone. The man who answered said he was the IG's PA. I conveyed my predicament to him and requested him to convey my request to the IG to call me back.
“In the meantime, the men who had been in the escort jeeps returned in one of those vehicles and assaulted and abused me. One of them snatched my mobile phone. I kept asking for it to be returned but they continued hitting me using their hands and metal lathis. They were also kicking me. This physical violence coupled with abuses continued, and they falsely accused me of having made a jaanleva hamla (lethal attack) on them when their convoy passed my car. This outrageous allegation was their excuse to use physical violence against me,” he wrote attaching two pictures showing bruises on his body.
“They further made a baseless allegation that I had a pistol. I do not own any pistol and I made it clear to them. On mentioning that I was a journalist, they threatened that they would teach me a lesson in the police station. Further, they continued to use profanities and issued threats,” said Mr. Devadas.
He further wrote: “At this point, I realised I had no choice and volunteered to board the vehicle. Even after doing so, the police personnel, instead of respecting my action, seized me by my hair and pulled, pushed, kicked and forced me into the back of the jeep. My shirt was torn. In the jeep, I was further beaten, abused and kicked, while my head was held down to the jeep floor by my hair. I was unsure of my fate, and what would follow inside the police station. Inside the police station compound, I was further beaten while being taken from the jeep into the police station. At this point, I loudly called out ‘DSP sahib' in the direction of the DSP's office about 20 feet away, but although the window was open and the officer's desk is near the window, I got no response.”
Author of the well-received book, In Search of a Future, the Story of Kashmir, published by Penguin India in 2007, Mr. Devadas has sought justice and wants to be heard.
When contacted, IGP Kashmir S.M. Sahai told The Hindu that Mr. Devadas met him and “he was with me for two hours. We discussed the issue and I assured him that the matter will be investigated… The FIR was not lodged by us [local police] but by the security personnel of the VIP,” he said.