Fahad Shah, founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, was arrested for the third time in a month by Srinagar Police on Saturday evening, a few hours after the Shopian judicial magistrate court granted him bail for his previous arrest.
The most recent arrest pertains to his magazine’s reporting of an encounter that took place in Srinagar in May 2020. An FIR has been registered under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 307 (attempt to murder), 109 (punishment for abutment), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. He is currently being held at Safakadal Police Station, Srinagar.
The 33-year-old journalist founded the online magazine in 2009 and has also featured in reputed international publications, including Foreign Affairs, TIME, and Foreign Policy. He is also a winner of the 25th Human Rights Press Awards (2021) for explanatory feature writing for his coverage of the communal violence in Delhi in February 2020.
Shah was initially arrested on February 4 by the Pulwama police, under the anti-terror law and sedition charges. However, he was granted bail on February 26 by a special court under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act after being held in custody for 22 days.
Shah’s next arrest in Shopian, which also came shortly after he was granted bail, was in relation to a case filed by the Indian Army in January 2021 against two news portals, including The Kashmir Walla, for reporting that a local army unit forced an Islamic seminary school to hold Republic Day celebrations on January 26 in Shopian. The case was filed under sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 of the IPC.
The journalist was granted bail in this case on Saturday. While granting bail to Shah, Sayeem Qayoom, the Shopian magistrate, noted, “In a barbaric society you can hardly ask for bail, in a civilised society you can hardly refuse it. In other words, ‘bail is a rule and its refusal is an exception’.”
Hours later, however, Shah found himself arrested again in relation to a new FIR.
This third FIR was filed in relation to a story published by The Kashmir Walla about the May 2020 encounter, quoting family members of one of the deceased denying claims made by the police.
As per a statement issued by the Jammu and Kashmir police, Shah was wanted in three cases for “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public, creating law and order situations.”
The statement also said he was arrested for social media posts “tantamount to glorifying the terrorist activities and causing dent to the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing ill-will and disaffection against the country.”
Shah’s legal team is currently working on moving a new bail application in the appropriate court.