It is too early to say what fruits will the National Investigation Agency (NIA) case against alleged “stone-pelters” of Kashmir will bear. However, if reports about the chargesheet’s contents are true, it appears that what the agency really needs to is to improve its understanding of the complex relationship between terrorism, separatism, protest and journalism.
Among the 12 accused the agency has identified in the chargesheet is Kamran Yusuf, a 23-year-old photojournalist from Pulwama, whom it has listed as a “stone-pelter”.
The NIA has reportedly asserted in its chargesheet that Yusuf was not a real journalist and the evidence lies in the fact that he didn't cover “any activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction”, “any developmental activity of any government department” or any “social work by the Army and para-military forces in the Valley”, like “blood-donation camps, free medical check-up, skill development program or Iftar party”.
These, according to the NIA, constitute the “moral duty” of a journalist. The NIA probably thinks only reporting on road inaugurations and blood-donation camps is journalism.
Quite possibly, it is unknown to the agency that there are domains in journalism and that different reporters cover different spheres, from municipality to United Nations and everything else in between.
If Yusuf was paid by newspapers in the valley for his photographs covering the reality of the question that troubles Kashmiris the most, why should he not have continued to do it?
However, what NIA's observations indicate is not just poverty of understanding about journalism but actually absence of evidence. Along with well-known hawala dealers and a few aides of heavyweight separate leaders, the agency appears to have rounded up random suspects like Yusuf.
The truth will eventually come out only after the judge hearing the case gives the final order. However, it appears quite likely that the judge will end up seeing throughout the NIA's case against Yusuf for what it really is.