Professional par excellence, humble, role model: People remember slain lensman Danish Siddiqui
A lot of people took to social media to express their grief, shock and outrage at the death of Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui who was killed in Afghanistan
Glowing tributes from fellow journalists, friends and colleagues poured in on social media on Saturday for slain photojournalist Danish Siddiqui who was killed while bravely discharging his professional duties amidst raging gun battle in Afghanistan.
Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize winner, worked with Reuters and was dispatched to Afghanistan to cover the raging conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces in the wake of withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the region.
People remembered Siddiqui’s professional integrity and humane attitude while sharing some of his recent clicks covering Delhi communal riots of 2020, the mass exodus of hapless migrant workers after nationwide lockdown and most recently the myriad of tragedies unfolding beneath the Covid pandemic which laid bare the governments’ apathy on one side and human resilience on the other.
Historian Rana Safvi took to Facebook to share a few photos clicked by him, and wrote, “Some of the most iconic photos in the past few years were taken by Danish Siddiqui, chief photo journalist of Reuters. He was embedded in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and that claimed his life today. Rest in power Danish.”
Siddiqui’s alma mater Jamia Millia Islamia was also left shaken by his sudden passing. The JMI Journalism Alumni Group released a statement and remembered him as someone who often returned to Jamia and stood by the institution. "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Danish Siddiqui’s death. As fellow journalists, we admired his work and celebrated his success. As alumni of AJK MCRC and Jamia Millia Islamia, we are proud of his achievements. He will be remembered not just as an international award-winning photojournalist but also as a human being full of humility and kindness.”
In a tribute to him, JMI alumnus Shaheen Abdulla wrote for Maktoob Media, “Siddiqui took our first-year orientation session in Jamia Millia Islamia, days after his Pulitzer Prize. He showed his work. Photos stayed on screen for minutes in silence. He told us he never wants to see such tragedy. We idolized him.”
He went on to add that for everyone from Jamia, and everyone who aspired to be a journalist, Siddiqui was no less than a celebrity. “In our circles, we would share the news of his new photos, talk at length about the details of his work, and dream of such skill. Danish, due to his relationship with our school, became an in-house hero. We would compare his work with Altaf Qadri and Adnan Abidi.”
A lot of budding journalists shared this sentiment of Abdulla’s. Aikantik Bag, Associate Photo Editor at Reuters, tweeted that after the news broke, he kept wishing it was fake. He wrote, “When I had received my offer, my initial reaction was that I will get a chance to work with the people I have admired over these years. I was telling a friend ‘...one small step closer to that dream’. Danish Siddiqui was that dream. To work alongside him will always be a dream.”
Not just his work, his humility was another trait that Siddiqui was admired for. American journalist Karen Hao shared an anecdote from the first time she met him, and how only a couple minutes later, she had found a friend. “In Feb 2020, I was rehearsing my TEDx talk in India when he, a fellow speaker, sat down next to me to ask about my work. I had no idea who he was. He said simply he was also a journalist. Only later did I realize the humility in that description.”
She added, “At the time he was preparing to fly to Wuhan the next week to document a strange new disease outbreak. I told him he was incredibly brave. He told me it was his wife and kids who had the real courage to say goodbye to him each time he left for another life-threatening assignment.”
While his death was mourned, it also raised questions about the safety of journalists. The JMI statement said, “Danish’s death is a reminder for all media organisations to prioritise journalists’ safety.”
Sara Hylton, a Canadian photographer, echoed this statement. In an Instagram story, she asked that Reuters be held accountable for sending Siddiqui to a dangerous life-threatening place, and not pulling him back “a few days ago when a grenade hit his vehicle”.
Another journalist, Uday S. Rana, tweeted that the whole journalistic fraternity stood by the family, and will support the future of Siddiqui’s two children in any way they can.