By: A Correspondent Date: 2011-07-09 Place: Mumbai
MiD DAY's photographer Sayed Sameer Abedi recounts his harrowing experience with the Mumbai Police after he was detained for more than for hours for taking innocuous photographs of a traffic junction and an airplane. He was threatened, roughed up and even called a terrorist because of his name
HAVING been a photojournalist for 12 years, I never thought the Mumbai Police would harass me for doing my job. That is exactly what happened to me yesterday, however, when I was detained for four hours for merely taking photographs and realised just how drunk on power, money-hungry and racist some of our officers are.
During those harrowing four hours, I was roughed up, threatened and treated like a criminal and one officer even cast aspersions on my intentions based on my religion. He said I could be Pakistani and a terrorist because I have a Muslim name.
I was on a regular assignment at Zari Mari road near Saki Naka at 2 pm when I found that traffic near the junction was a mess after President Pratibha Patil and her entourage had passed by. While taking photographs of the jam, I noticed an aircraft landing at the airport and clicked a few photos of that as well.
Suddenly, a police constable appeared on the scene and shouted, "What are you doing, what photos are you taking? Don't you know that you cannot take photos like this? You need to take permission before clicking photographs. Come to the senior inspector.". I went with the constable to the inspector, who asked me why I was taking the photographs.
I told the senior police inspector, Samadhan Dhanedhar, that I work as a photojournalist for MiD DAY and Inquilab and that I was merely taking photographs of the traffic condition. I also complained to him that the constable had jerked me around and treated me like a criminal.
He asked me to show him the photographs I had clicked and then asked me how I had dared to take photos of an aircraft without taking permission from him. When I protested and told him that I was just doing my job and was doing nothing that was against the law, he shouted me down and asked me not to raise my voice.
He then turned to the constable and asked him to make sure that I was arrested and booked on serious charges. The policeman made me sit in the van for more than half an hour and then finally took me to the Saki Naka Police station.
At the police station, Sub-Inspector Ashok Parthi, the investigating officer in my case, asked me about the incident. I explained everything and said I had done nothing wrong.
"Don't talk too much, just shut up and listen to what we are saying. Your name is Sayed, you could be a terrorist and a Pakistani.
The Senior PI (Dhanedhar) has asked me to inform the Special Branch and file all kinds of charges, including those of terrorism, against you. The only option left for you then would be to get your name cleared in court.
Do you want us to do that? Let me inform you that we have all the power in the world to do what we want," Parthi said.
When I told him that I wanted to speak to Dhanedhar, Parthi said that the senior PI did not want to talk to me.
He continued threatening me with dire consequences and sobered down only when I showed him my MiD DAY identity card and press accreditation and informed him that I had covered several press events involving the Prime Minister and the President.
After some time, he said, "If I wanted, I could have filed several charges against you, but I am not doing it and I am only imposing a fine."
The other policemen present there told me that I could go after paying a fine of Rs 1,200. I told them that I did not have the money and would not pay the fine. One of my colleagues came to the police station a while later and paid the fine on my behalf. We finally left the police station at 6.45 pm.
While we were stepping out, my colleague clicked a photograph of mine, which made a policeman pull us into the station again. One of the inspectors shouted at us again and said that we had failed to learn our lesson, before letting us go.
Peace Is Doable