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Remembering the journalist who wanted to “capture the human face of a breaking story”6 min read

July 20, 2021 4 min read


Remembering the journalist who wanted to “capture the human face of a breaking story”6 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

On Friday, July 16th, the Pulitzer Prize winning Indian journalist, Danish Siddiqui, passed away while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and the Taliban. He was a celebrated photojournalist and a winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

Let’s get to know more about this pathbreaker, shall we?

Danish Siddiqui spent the earlier days of his life in New Delhi. He graduated with a degree in Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia. He went on to study Mass Communication, and began his journey in journalism as a correspondent for Hindustan Times. In 2010, he joined Reuters as an intern. He used to head the National Reuters Multimedia team in India and was embedded in Afghanistan as a journalist with the Afghan Special Forces in the southern province of Kandahar. Siddiqui was covering the clashes in Kandahar, with the impending withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan premised on President Joe Biden’s September 11 deadline.

A really quick time capsule: What’s happening in Afghanistan?

In 1921, Afghanistan defeated the British and became an independent nation. In the 1930s, the country had a stable monarchy. The situation continued for forty years till pro-USSR Gen. Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew the monarchy and became Afghanistan’s first president establishing the Republic of Afghanistan, with close ties with USSR. In 1973, Khan’s regime is overthrown by another party that severs ties with the USSR. The clashes between religious groups and the government, and invasions by the Soviet ravaged Afghanistan in the late 1970s. In 1992, the Taliban, an extremist religious group, took over Kabul. USA intervened in 2001. In December of that year, the Taliban regime ended an a new constitution was established. Now, with the withdrawal of the US forces, tensions in Afghanistan are rising again.

Siddiqui was present to document these tensions.

The Rohingya refugees climbing up a hill after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Image: Reuters

The photographer whose earliest memories of photography include a borrowed camera from a neighbour and a hiking trip to the Himalayas, was also the first Indian (along with Adnan Abidi) to receive a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. In 2010, he was part of a team that won the award for their documentation of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

My first encounter with formal training in photography was at film school, where one module was dedicated to still photography. I was also exposed to photojournalism while working as a television journalist with one of the largest news television networks in India. Ninety percent of the photography I have learnt has come from experimentation in the field.

Danish Siddiqui, Reuters

For his first assignment at Reuters, Siddiqui accompanied the chief photographer for India to a religious festival that happens once in twelve years! Siddiqui was in the news for his brave coverage of the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis in India. In the past, he has covered the dangerous Battle of Mosul in 2016–2017, the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the Hong Kong protests in 2019-2020, the 2020 Delhi riots, and other stories across South Asia, Middle East and Europe.

I respect my subjects the most – they give me my inspiration.

Siddiqui, Reuters

Danish Siddiqui’s alma mater, Jamia Millia Islamia has bent its rules by opening its burial grounds as the final resting place for the celebrated journalist.

Here’s a snapshot of his pathbreaking work:

A North-Korean soldier eating ice cream captured by Danish Siddiqui. Image: Reuters
Siddiqui captured this image at Maratha Mandir where the same movie, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, has been playing for twenty-five years. He said, “The way a film can help people forget their worldly worries, everyday hassles, and cares makes this picture special for me.” Image: Reuters
A devotee at Varanasi. Image: Reuters
A homeless toddler sleeps in a hammock made by the sidewalk. Image: Reuters

(In the Spotlight is a weekly column that features people who are in the news for all the right reasons)

Sourced from BBC, The Indian Express, Scroll, Reuters, Reuters, and Reuters

Image: India Today

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