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Modi rejected Danish Siddiqui as Indian hero

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Danish Siddiqui deserved to be an Indian hero. An immensely talented photojournalist raised in a segregated Muslim neighborhood in New Delhi, he became the first Indian to win a Pulitzer Prize for background photography. His tragic death earlier this month at the age of 38 while on assignment in Afghanistan while covering clashes between the Afghan National Army and the Taliban could have been an occasion to commemorate national unity .

Siddiquis’ death was covered as national history, and there were ceremonial condolences from some government officials. But the loudest response has been the silence of India’s Twitter-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modian, and some of his supporters have taken this as a signal to smear Siddiquis’ work and life. A moment of potential solidarity thus became a moment of discord, with the Indian Muslim community feeling alien and unrecognized for their contributions to Indian society.

Danish Siddiqui deserved to be an Indian hero. An immensely talented photojournalist raised in a segregated Muslim neighborhood in New Delhi, he became the first Indian to win a Pulitzer Prize for background photography. His tragic death earlier this month at the age of 38 while on assignment in Afghanistan while covering clashes between the Afghan National Army and the Taliban could have been an occasion to commemorate national unity .

Siddiquis’ death was covered as national history, and there were ceremonial condolences from some government officials. But the loudest response has been the silence of India’s Twitter-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modian, and some of his supporters have taken this as a signal to smear Siddiquis’ work and life. A moment of potential solidarity thus became a moment of discord, with the Indian Muslim community feeling alien and unrecognized for their contributions to Indian society.

Siddiqui was chief photographer for the international news agency Reuters and won the Pulitzer for covering the Rohingya refugee crisis in 2018. He photographed their arrival from Myanmar to the Bangladesh coast and captured a iconic image of a woman, fresh off a boat, touching the sand on the shore, looking both exhausted from the trip and relieved to have escaped a vicious campaign of ethnic violence. Siddiqui then photographed the protests in Hong Kong and many other events in the region.

But Siddiqui rose to the stature of a local hero for his critical work in India. He has regularly exposed the shortcomings of the Indian government. In 2019, his images crushed the false narrative that students in New Delhi protesting against an anti-Muslim citizenship law were inciting violence. It was again Siddiqui who took the Photo of an unarmed Muslim beaten by a Hindu mob in Delhi as the capital was plagued by Hindu-Muslim riots. Above all, Siddiqui was among the first to take images of crematoriums filled with pyres of Hindus who died from the coronavirus this summer. Her images and photographs revealed the extent of the crisis unfolding in India and drew the world’s attention to her.

Modis ‘silence on Siddiquis’ death was blatant, as he quickly tweeted his condolences when a Hindu journalist known for his pro-government positions recently died of a heart attack after testing positive for COVID-19. Moreover, in India as elsewhere, it is a big deal to win international accolades. The prime minister, critics say, could easily have written a few words to Siddiquis’ friends and family. Modi may have been too busy with his job as prime minister. But its record in educating Muslims is poor, to put it mildly. He has already been accused of not deliberately containing a pogrom against Muslims in 2002 while he was Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, and more generally of seeking to deepen the social and political divisions between Hindus and Muslims and between Hindu conservatives and liberal democrats.

It would also be in line with Modis’ record if he harbored resentment against Siddiqui for criticizing his work as prime minister. As images of the Siddiquis pandemic gained international attention, he was accused by supporters of Modis of insensitivity, of taking advantage of private family grief. The criticism was aimed at deflecting attention from the high death rate that the Indian government was trying to hide. Siddiquis’ photos were capable of electorally damaging Modi and his party by showing that he had failed to protect Hindus, his electoral base, from mass death.

Modis fans began trolling Siddiqui online for filming the pyres, and when he was killed he attributed his death to bad karma, suggesting he deserved to be shot. body mounted. It was not from any fringe element, but from a member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, a right-wing Hindu organization allied to the Hindu nationalist Modis Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mohammad Meharban, Siddiquis’ protégé, said a few words from the prime minister would have stopped the trolls online, but his silence reinforced them. While Meharban did not think that most Hindus looked down on Siddiqui, he accused them of being complicit in a campaign of hatred against Muslims by not opposing it. Most of the people in the country support Modi Ji, and that means they support his anti-Muslim policies, he said. I think it is because for a long time Modi Ji and his party brainwashed Hindus against Muslims. Our old Hindu friends now say that we are not patriots, only they are. Modi Ji and his media agents have turned most Hindus against us.

Ultimately, Siddiqui was claimed by Muslims, media, and Liberal Democrats in New Delhi, but most others in India either did not know him or took the prime minister’s initiative by quietly disowning him and ignoring him. the honor he had brought. the country. In this way, the life of the young journalist and the reaction to his death in India revealed a lot about his homeland. about their future. Siddiquis’ story is not just about the stories he covered, but the one he lived.

Siddiqui grew up in the Jamia Nagar neighborhood of New Delhi, where Muslims of all classes and ideologies, conservative, moderate and liberal intellectuals lived side by side and were mutually hated by their Hindu neighbors. Siddiqui was the son of a dean and professor at the faculty of education at Jamia Millia Islamia University, and he was educated in a convent. But in India, even graduation and economic status do not erase the stigma attached to being a Muslim. Bilal Zaidi, also an Indian journalist, grew up in the same alley in the Jamia Nagar neighborhood and knew Siddiqui well. I knew exactly where he was from, a Muslim from Aghetto who spoke broken English, Zaidi said. I knew the difficulties of a boy from a stigmatized neighborhood. For him to get a Pulitzer on a lot of others who have gone to [Oxford, Cambridge,] Harvard and where-not, was remarkable.

He then explained the obstacles that boys like him and Siddiqui had to overcome on a daily basis. Muslims cannot rent a house outside the ghettos and struggle to open bank accounts. Before digital transformation, we couldn’t order food online or take a rickshaw or taxi indoors. All that required a human interface was a fight, Zaidi said. We would be told straight away that Jamia Nagar was a mini-Pakistan.

Despite the odds, Siddiqui was one of those who made a name for himself and managed to challenge the stereotype. He was an Indian who made India proud and became a hero of the local youth who saw him, not the bearded clerics spewing out dated opinions, as a more precise representative of their aspirations.

Pulitzer is a big prize, and my own feeling is that there aren’t many Indian Muslim children who grow up with the ambition of winning a Pulitzer, Wimbledon or Oscar, said Mujibur Rehman, professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia journalism faculty. where Siddiqui studied. This was seen as an achievement, especially at a time when the Muslim community is going through a deep crisis in India and it is not clear where it is headed.

So here is a guy who described what Muslims could be, their quest for dignity so to speak. He brought the story of their suffering on a global platform, and these things related to people.

Days before Siddiquis’ murder, veteran Indian actor and superstar, Dilip Kumar, passed away. He was also a Muslim but changed his name from Mohammed Yusuf Khan to a Hindu name early in his career. Modi tweeted about his death and adequately expressed a sense of national loss. But Siddiqui didn’t make the cut, either because he was too young or not a Bollywood star, or perhaps because he was doing his job and exposing government failures. Or maybe because he came from a region that refused to accept the controversial anti-Muslim law of the Modi government which endangered their status as Indian citizens.

We may never really know why the Indian Prime Minister hesitated to recognize a brave Indian journalist, but his reluctance has widened the gap between Hindus and Muslims, between fascists and liberal Democrats. This left them feeling unsafe and untreated in their own country. It also made many intellectuals, including many Muslims, increasingly terrified of speaking out against Modi.

Sources

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2/ https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/07/23/danish-siddiqui-modi-indian-hero/

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