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Friday, July 23, 2021

The truth in Danish Siddiqui’s photographs

He was guided by the ethics of journalism.


Updated: July 18, 2021 10:25:13 pm
Danish SiddiquiIn this photo taken by Danish Siddiqui, an exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touches the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh September 11, 2017 (Reuters)

Written by Naimisha

The lens of a camera is like Vidur’s sight; he reported what he saw irrespective of allegiance, without fear and favour. To all the dear friends trolling about and justifying the death of photo-journalist Danish Siddique, let’s turn the pages of the Mahabharata. Vidur protested against the humiliation of Draupadi in the Kaurava court. But Duryodhan viciously rebuked Vidur, calling him ungrateful. Lord Krishna called Vidur the Dharamraja — lord of the truth — for his commitment to his people and their welfare.

In the winter of 1984, the country was taken aback by the catastrophic Bhopal Gas Tragedy — one of the nastiest industrial disasters in the world. A young photographer, making his way through the corpses of animals and nameless bodies, was the first to show the world the tragedy. That was Raghu Rai. My father told me his name when I first held a toy camera at the age of 6.

For the last few days, the newspaper has had reports and analyses on what has been happening in Afghanistan. There is a struggle to keep democracy stable in the face of the extremism of the Taliban. Honestly, though, I didn’t concern myself too much — like so many others — until my nerves went cold on hearing that an Indian photojournalist, Danish Siddiqui, has been killed in the line of duty in the Afghan-Taliban clash.

I was too little, a toddler too naïve to know what was happening when my dad was put into preventive detention 1996. Our Press was burnt down and home ransacked because one report, one article, and one photograph could shake up so many. Growing up, each day was a deadline, a story of human endurance against injustice that needs to be covered, bytes can’t be left incomplete and when words don’t find their way, photographs do. Some days, my mother would come home at 2 am after the last copy was closed; often, dad would be in the field or perhaps somewhere in-between bullet and pellet covering the voices of the voiceless. I never wanted to be a journalist, I am not one. I never will be one. I don’t understand journalism. I only know that my camera takes me to places, to find who lives in those snow-capped mountains, the struggles of starving for a sunrise in the faces of sunsets. We explore, we question, we investigate, we click and we write but we are not silenced even when the bullets hit.

It breaks my heart when some fanatic trolls the death of journalist Rohit Sardana who held the ideals of nationalism. But it also puzzles me when the defenders of Rohit Sardana are today justifying the death of Siddique, who showed the world the truth of the pandemic. Both of them were in the pursuance of finding the truth in their own way. They cared not for what ideologies and Twitter say.

I can’t stop but pull you to remember The New York Times on March 26, 1993. It carried a photograph by Kevin Carter, “The Vulture and the little girl”, in which a child was struggling to reach the UN food centre while a bird of prey was eyeing her, as a meal. Four months after winning the Pulitzer for that historic photograph, Carter committed suicide.

A journalist or a photojournalist is guided by the ethic of his duty to report to the truth. While Carter may have tried saving the child from death, Danish could do nothing more than saving the truth when everything else was dead.

I don’t expect you to agree with me. I still respect your sentiments but I will defend to the death the ethical journalists who sacrificed their lives to bring you the truth. I hold my camera and my pen upfront in the loving memory of Danish Siddiqui because a mere obituary to a journalist is an insult. The tribute is to carry forward his legacy of struggle to show the truth and stand by it.

“nainam chhindanti shastraani nainam dahati paavakah

 na chainam kledayantyaapo na shoshayati maarutah.”

Chapter 2, Verse 3- Srimad Bhagwat Gita

Weapons cannot cut It, nor can fire burn It; water cannot wet It, nor can wind dry It.

The writer is a Research Scholar and SheCreates Change fellow.

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