Danish was perhaps one of his own kind, he believed in courage with his camera doing all the fireworks! He came, he saw and finally bid adieu as a true soldier of journalism of chivalry!
‘Joseph Pulitzer the name associated with the Pulitzer awards had once said, ‘there is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy. So put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light. That is what journalism is all about. One has to be forthright and outrageously expressive. If you have a fact better tell it vividly without any inhibitions. None can touch you. That is exactly what Danish Siddiqui believed in. The power to mould the future of the country will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations was again said by Pulitzer. Danish was one of such breeds and for his extensive and stupendous photo journalism he was awarded with the Pulitzer award. The specialists got it and for sure was a specialist.’
‘In his 1907 retirement address, Joseph Pulitzer urged his successors to always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty’. That is what journalism is all about. Danish proved that he was in a class of his own’.
Newspapers should have no friends. If you have friends and you are a media man then my advice would be that you should search for another profession because this is not a cozy profession since friendship tends to corrupt the psyche. The questions such as , should I or should I not start roving around in the brain and when that happens your pen will never write and the camera will never click. Anyway that is besides the point. What is in focus is the martyrdom of Danish the brave heart who was killed in Afghanistan where the warlords are fighting yet again with the Taliban calling the atrocious shots with their dominating presence and killing spree. ‘Dee Ess’ as he used to be called is yet another fallen soldier of journalism who died covering Afghanistan.
I will reel you back to the year 2009 and tell you about some great names who died while covering the Afghanistan wars. The list is huge if I go on rewinding but these men showed indomitable courage with their pens and cameras as they steamed ahead to get the people the first hand reports right from the perilous zone of battles where death stares at you with every bullet fired or a bomb explosion! More often than not the death is brutal But the show fraught with dangers has to go on:
11 May 2019:Mina Mangal Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghan journalist, activist and political advisor. She was shot dead in Kabul under suspicious circumstances (possible honour killing).
30 April 2018: Shah Marai Afghanistan Kabul Afghan photojournalist working for the Agence France-Presse. He was killed along with several other journalists in an ISIL suicide bombing while covering the April 2018 Kabul suicide bombings.
4 April 2014: Anja Niedringhaus, Germany, Khost Province German photojournalist working for the Associated Press. She was shot by a man wearing a police officer’s uniform while covering the country’s 2014 presidential election.
11 March 2014: Nils Horner Sweden, Kabul, Reporter for Swedish Radio SR. He was killed during a talk with his Afghan translator on the street of the capital Kabul. He was war correspondent of the Swedish Radio station from 2001 and reported for them from the Afghanistan and Iraq war.
23 January 2014: Noor Ahmad Noor, Helmand Province, Reporter for Radio Bost. Noori was tortured and killed in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province by an unknown assailant. His body was found in a plastic bag in a Lashkar Gah suburb.
21 February 2012: Sadim Khan Bhadrza, Urgon District, the director of Radio Mehman Melina was killed by an unknown assailant.
20 September 2011: Farhad TaqaddosiIran, Kabul, The Taliban claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that hit the Iranian Press TV camera operator when he was working near the US embassy and NATO headquarters.
28 July 2011: Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak, Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan. A soldier from the International Security Assistance Force mistakenly killed Khpalwak, who worked for Pajhwok Afghan News and the BBC News, while clearing a broadcasting building of possible enemy.
24 June 2010: James P. Hunter United States, Zhari district, Kandahar Province. He was killed while covering a foot patrol. The first US military journalist to die in the War in Afghanistan.
10 January 2010: Rupert Hamer, United Kingdom. Nawa, Nawa-I-Barakzayi District, Helmand Province. The British Sunday Mirror war correspondent and his photographer were traveling with US troops when their vehicle hit an IED. Hamer died along with a US marine. His photographer survived with injuries as well as other injured soldiers.
30 December 2009: Michelle Lang Canada, Kandahar, Kandahar Province. The Calgary Herald reporter was killed by an IED that was struck by the vehicle carrying Lang and 4 Canadian soldiers.
9 September 2009: Sultan Munadi, Char Dara District, Kunduz Province.An Afghan interpreter held captive with British colleague Stephen Farrell of the New York Times, Munadi was killed during the rescue attempt.
I told you before also that there are many who gave up their lives so that people were told as to what was happening where. Now joining them in the sacred place in the heavens is Danish Siddiqui the ever smiling genius.
I The tragic incident:
A father’s tribute to his son:
`We used to tell him in the beginning what was the need for such a job, but we almost got used to it. He’d tell us they have security, they travel with full protection. We only told him to maintain all precautions. In the last one year, Danish Siddiqui extensively covered the COVID-19 pandemic across the country. He was a brilliant and dashing young man. He had a lot of commitment towards his work, passion to face challenges. Even during the pandemic, Delhi riots, he reported the facts despite the challenges. Passionate and energetic as a child, Danish would finish with perfection whatever he set his mind to. He was extraordinarily courageous.’
Danish Siddiqui was embedded with Afghan forces that came under attack by Taliban in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province.
Siddiqui, who worked for Reuters and was based in Mumbai, was also awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. On July 13, Siddiqui had tweeted ‘lucky to be safe’ recalling how the vehicle he was travelling in came under attack by the Taliban.
The Humvee in which I was travelling with other special forces was also targeted by at least 3 RPG rounds and other weapons. I was lucky to be safe and capture the visual of one of the rockets hitting the armor plate overhead. He bravely survived that but could not do anything as regards the next fusillade.
Danish Siddiqui had a graduate degree in Economics from Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia. He also had a degree in Mass Communication from the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre from the university. He had joined Reuters as an intern in 2010.
Danish had been regularly posting photos on his social media accounts from Afghanistan where Taliban is expanding its presence amid the withdrawal of US-led allied troops.
India pulled out about 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar earlier this week. India has its embassy in Kabul along with the consulates in Kandahar and Mazar where it has over 500 staff deployed. Two consulates in Herat and Jalalabad had ceased operations earlier.
II. Taliban denies role:
The tensions between the Afghan Security Forces and Taliban have been escalating for the past few days with violent clashes between the two.
Danish was killed during the firing between the two security forces. The demise of the young journalist shocked the entire nation with condolences pouring from different fraternities.
However, according to a report, the Taliban has denied any role in the killing of Danish Siddiqi and expressed regret for the demise of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist.
Dismissing any role in Siddiqui’s killing, Taliban’s spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, as quoted said, ‘we are not aware during whose firing the journalist was killed. We do not know how he died.’
He further said that any journalist entering the war zone should inform us. We will take proper care of that particular individual. We are sorry for Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui’s death. We regret that journalists are entering war zones without giving intimation to us.
Danish was there in Kandahar to cover the tense situation in the province as the Taliban advanced to the key border crossing Pakistan. His body was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) around 5 pm (local time) today.
III. Rich tributes paid:
They had to be because the man was an extraordinary individual. He was skillful, methodical and had gained expertise on his lenscraft. He had everything with him but perhaps not the age.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said he was deeply saddened with the shocking reports that Mr Siddiqui was killed while covering the Taliban atrocities in Kandahar. While I extend my heartfelt condolences to Siddiqui’s family and also to our media family, I reiterate my government’s unwavering commitment to freedom of speech and protection of free media and journalists,” Mr Ghani said.
India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla condemned the killing of Danish Siddiqui at Kandahar province in Afghanistan. He also extended condolences to the bereaved family of the journalists at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting. This is what he said, ‘we condemn the killing of Indian photographer Danish Siddiqui while he was on a reporting assignment in Kandahar in Afghanistan. I extend our sincere condolences to the bereaved family,” Shringla said.
In a tweet, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the killing of the journalist was a painful reminder of the mounting dangers faced by the media in Afghanistan. ‘Media working in Afghanistan and journalism itself in the country are under increasing threat. Our deep condolences to the family & friends of the journalist.
Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay tweeted, ‘Deeply disturbed by the sad news of the killing of a friend, Danish Sidiqi in Kandahar last night (July 15). The Indian Journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize was embedded with Afghan security forces,” he continued, I met him 2 weeks ago before his departure to Kabul. Condolences to his family and Reuters.’
“Danish Siddiqui leaves behind an extraordinary body of work. He won the Pulitzer Prize for photography and was embedded with the Afghan Forces in Kandahar. Sincere condolences. RIP’, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anuraag Thakur said in a tweet.(AFP)
Several media groups like the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) of South Asia and the Press Club of India (PCI) expressed shock at Siddiqui’s death and remembered him as a courageous and ‘fiercely talented’ photojournalist. Siddiqui was a member of the FCC.
He was really very, very special. More often than not, the singular image that defined the biggest news of the day, resonated for its humanity and artistry. He was magnificent with his lens work and he will be remembered for his intelligence, compassion and bravery. For many of his friends it was absolutely devastating news and they simply cannot believe that he has left but his tremendous legacy is bound to survive because his work was awe inspiring!
I started this piece with some great sayings of Joseph Pulitzer and would like to end this one with a couple of memorable ones. First, money is the great power today. Men sell their souls for it. Women sell their bodies for it. Others worship it. The money power has grown so great that the issue of all issues is whether the corporation shall rule this country or the country shall again rule the corporations. And the second, my special object is to help the poor; the rich can help themselves. I believe in self-made men. Indeed Danish was really a self made man all the way, the courageous man who died young! The only regret is that would remain is, we will not be able to see some classical news photography of his but will definitely enjoy his works which he has left behind!