Manan Gulzar Dar, 24, has adopted the name Muhammad Manan for his professional work. A young freelance photojournalist by profession, one of his images from the aftermath of an encounter in Srinagar in July 2021 was featured in the Guardian’s ‘Twenty photographs of the week‘ section.
Life and Activism
He is a freelance photojournalist who has covered news and conflict in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir; he has contributed to Getty Images and the Pacific Press international photo agency. A colleague of Manan who wished to remain anonymous said that the 24-year-old started working as a photojournalist in 2019 and picked up on the nuances of the profession very quickly. “We recently shot a video for an international publication. Although they had not given him a byline, we worked together on the project and shared the earnings,” he said, adding that his photos also featured in stock agencies such as Getty and Pacific Press. Manan has also been a student of an Islamic seminary in his locality, where he was taught by Aasif Sultan, the Srinagar-based journalist who is languishing in jail since 2018 under anti-terror charges. Sultan was the 2019 recipient of the prestigious John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award.
His father didn’t see much hope for his son in the field of journalism, “He liked photography. I always thought it (journalism) is a part-time job. He wanted to pursue higher education but our financial condition wasn’t good enough to afford a private college for him,” as per a news report. “I regret not selling off my land. Of what use is it now when it could have saved him from meeting this tragic fate,” he said.
Circumstances of arrest
On October 10, 2021, police in Srinagar summoned him for questioning at the city’s Batamaloo Police Station and then detained him, according to news reports and Huma Farnazah, the journalist’s cousin. Officials with the National Investigation Agency formally arrested him on October 22, 2021. The National Investigation Agency is investigating him for allegedly working for terrorist organizations to radicalize and recruit Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir to carry out terror activities. On October 13, 2021, National Investigation Agency officers raided his family home in Srinagar and seized cell phones, the family’s deed to their home, and financial documents. Authorities have arrested 13 people allegedly involved in his case, including his brother Hanan.
Manan’s arrest comes against the backdrop of a crackdown on independent journalists in Kashmir, three of whom have been booked under the anti-terror laws while dozens have been questioned over their professional work. In some cases, the questioning has lasted several hours. The J&K police recently detained four journalists: Showkat Motta, Shah Abbas, Mir Hilal and Azhar Qadri, in connection with the Kashmir fight blogpost case. While their gadgets, such as mobile phones and laptops, have been seized, no formal charges have been pressed against them so far.
Charges & Allegations –
NIA had arrested Manan’s brother, Hanan Gulzar Dar, a college student, who was taken into custody on October 17, 2021 and formally arrested on October 19, 2021, the news website Free Press Kashmir. Police sources said Hanan had been booked previously in a terror funding case. Hanan was arrested days before his brother’s formal arrest.
The two brothers are among 13 suspects who have been arrested in a case filed by the agency under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) after members of the minority community and migrant workers were targeted by suspected militants in Kashmir. The NIA filed the militant conspiracy case on October 10 (R0-20/2021/NIA/DLI) under IPC Sections 120 (B), 121 (A), 122 and 123 (which deal with criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to commit a crime, collecting arms and concealing, with intent to facilitate, designs to wage war) and UAPA Sections 18, 18A, I8B, 20, 38 & 39 (which detail punishments for commit crime, collecting arms and concealing, with intent to facilitate, designs to wage war) and UAPA Sections 18, 18A, I8B, 20, 38 & 39 (which detail punishments for conspiracy and various punishments relating to membership to a terrorist organisation) at a police station in New Delhi.
The FIR was filed after a spate of targeted attacks within 36 hours left five people, including a female Sikh school principal and three other members of the minority communities, dead. Among those killed was prominent Kashmiri Pandit chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo.
He is under investigation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly conspiring “both physically and in cyberspace” and planning terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir; he is also under investigation under the Indian penal code for criminal conspiracy and designing to wage war against the Indian state. He was taken to New Delhi on October 24, 2021, and is being held in the city’s Tihar Jail.