Kashmiri journalist faces terrorism charges

Kashmiri men employed by government pack wheat flour for distribution among needy people inside a temporary storage in Srinagar on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 22 April 2020

Kashmiri journalist faces terrorism charges

  • “What is my crime? I have been sharing my published materials on Facebook for quite some time and the case has really shocked me

PATNA, INDIA: A young Kashmiri photojournalist was on Tuesday facing terrorism charges after being booked by police for engaging in “antinational activities” on social media.

Law enforcement officers in Indian-administered Kashmir booked 26-year-old Masrat Zahra under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which allows authorities to designate individuals as terrorists.
The Srinagar-based journalist told Arab News: “What is my crime? I have been sharing my published materials on Facebook for quite some time and the case has really shocked me.
“What has surprised me is that police have not addressed me as a journalist but as a Facebook user,” said Zahra, whose work has appeared in many international publications.
A statement issued by Jammu and Kashmir cyber police on Saturday said that officers had received “information through reliable sources that one Facebook user, namely Masrat Zahra, is uploading antinational posts with criminal intention to induce the youth and to promote offenses against public tranquility.”
It added that “the Facebook user is also believed to be uploading photographs which can provoke the public to disturb law and order” and “dent the image of law enforcing agencies.”
On Monday, Zahra was booked under the UAPA.
Her recent work portrayed a woman who had been having panic attacks after claiming that her husband had been killed by the Indian army.
Also, on Monday, Srinagar police booked another Kashmiri journalist, Peerzada Ashiq, who works for prominent national daily The Hindu, on charges that one of his recent stories was “factually incorrect and could cause fear or alarm in the minds of the public.”


Law enforcement officers in Indian-administered Kashmir booked 26-year-old Masrat Zahra under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which allows authorities to designate individuals as terrorists.

Titled “Families of slain militants given curfew pass,” Ashiq’s report investigated how amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, authorities had issued special passes to the families of slain militants from south Kashmir’s Shopian district to visit their graves in another district, some 110 kilometers away.
“This is an attempt to make the atmosphere difficult for journalists in Kashmir,” Shuja-ul-Haq, president of Kashmir Press Club, told Arab News.
“We are going through a difficult time. Despite assurances from the authorities, cases are being filed against journalists. The media fraternity is in shock in the valley,” he said.
Srinagar-based journalist, Gowhar Gilani, said: “It’s traumatic what is happening. As journalists we feel we are on a ventilator and need support to survive. A democracy cannot run without vibrant political activities and independent media.”
One senior Kashmiri journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, said that cases against journalists were not new in Kashmir, but it was new for them to be brought on terrorism charges.
“In any other part of the world there would be a massive outcry if journalists were booked so blatantly, but in Kashmir everything is justified under the garb of protecting national security,” he said.

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”