In the story of the devastating flood in J&K, Shafat Sidiq is a braveheart of a unique kind. Unlike several youths who died trying to save trapped people, Shafat was a storyteller who lost his life while documenting the fury of the Jhelum waves.
He was among the senior photojournalists working in Kashmir and his colleagues say this flood was his only assignment when he couldn’t file his pictures. When his body was found five days after he went missing on September 7, his cameras were hanging around his neck.
Shafat is survived by wife Yasmeen, 18-month-old son Mohammad, ailing father Mohammad Sidiq, mother Saleema and two sisters. The family was dependent on his earnings.
His family said Shafat was working with Dainik Jagran newspaper for years. “He was sent by his office to take photographs, why didn’t they look for him,’’ Shafat’s mother Saleema Bano asked. “I will have this complaint till I die. We don’t know what happened to him. How did he die? How long was he in the water? His newspaper didn’t even contact us for those five days while we searched for him”.
However, Jagran editor in J&K, Abhimanyu Sharma, said he was a stringer who contributed pictures “shouqia” (as a hobby). “He didn’t have a contract with us. He was only paid for the pictures he took for us,’’ he said. Sharma said his organisation is trying to find ways to help his family.
Shafat’s uncle Bashir Ahmad said he had received a call from his office on the morning of September 7.
“They wanted him to go and take a picture at Ghanta Ghar (clock tower in Lal Chowk). He had no fuel in his car. They called him again and he went out to fetch petrol and then left at around 10.30 am,’’ Ahmad said.
Saleema said Shafat had promised to be back in an hour. “When he didn’t return till 6 in the evening, we went to Zaina Kadal police station,” she said. Somebody from Batamaloo, the family said, told them that Shafat’s body with his identity card and the cameras was found. The body was brought to his home in Rahbab Sahib Aaali Kadal on Thursday.
Shafat’s wife Yasmeen cried as she talked about him. Their son Mohammad was playing with his defunct camera. “There is nothing left in my life. I only wish I can raise this boy well now,’’ Yasmeen said.