The Caravan

On 16 June, Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer-winning photographer, was killed while on assignment in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was the chief photographer for Reuters at the time. He was a prolific photojournalist whose images spoke to defining moments in Indian democracy in recent years. Following his death, the alumni of the Jamia Milia Islamia university in Delhi, where Siddiqui was a student of MA Mass Communication from 2005–2007, released a statement in his honour. The statement is reproduced below.

Statement – JMI Journalism Alums Group

Jamia Millia Islamia journalism alums group condole the death of alumnus Danish Siddiqui

New Delhi, July 16 — Jamia Millia Islamia’s AJK Mass Communication Research Centre (AJKMCRC) journalism alums group offers their deepest condolences to the family of Reuters chief photographer Danish Siddiqui, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for his work. Siddiqui, a student of MA Mass Communication 2005-2007, was a friend to many MA Convergent Journalism alums and worked with a few at Reuters. 

“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. Many of us have received his guidance and support — both at the university, where he returned frequently for interactions and on the field. Danish’s death is a reminder for all media organizations to prioritize journalists’ safety. We request the Indian government to support his family in this time of grave loss and help bring his remains back to the country. We extend our condolences to his family and friends. We request everyone to respect his memory by not sharing photographs of his body. Please preserve his dignity in death.” — Jamia Millia Islamia Journalism Alums Group. 

Siddiqui, an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, was killed in clashes between Afghan Special Forces and Taliban in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city in Afghanistan on Friday. He was on a reporting assignment. 

According to Reuters, Siddiqui had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel earlier on Friday while reporting on the clash. He had been recovering after his treatment when Taliban fighters retreated from the fighting in Spin Boldak. An Afghan military official told Reuters that the journalist had been speaking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked again. However, the details could not be independently verified by Reuters. 

Siddiqui studied MA in Mass Communication at Jamia Millia Islamia’s AJK MCRC from 2005 to 2007. He began his career in television before joining Reuters in 2010. In the last 11 years, he covered major world events including the Battle of Mosul, the Nepal earthquake, and Hong Kong protests. In 2018, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis. 

Closer home, the photojournalist was known for his recent documentation of the farmers’ protest, Covid-19 pandemic, the migrant crisis, the northeast Delhi communal riots, and the anti-CAA protests. He was currently heading the photography team at Reuters. 

Messages from AJK MCRC teachers, staff, and former and current MA Convergent Journalism students: 

“It is absolutely devastating news and we’re still processing it. Danish was one of the brightest stars in MCRC’s Hall of fame. His passing will be deeply mourned. Danish was special not just because of all his professional achievements but because of the wonderful man he was. He has been one of those alumni who kept in regular touch with the photography department and came back to the campus often. He took a class last month as well.” — Prof. Shohini Ghosh, Director of AJK MCRC, taught him during his postgraduate degree at the institution between 2005-2007. 

“We are all still in shock as we were all so close to Danish. He was an extremely humble and self-effacing individual. He did exceptionally well not just as a student but also as an alumnus. Very often students go away after completing their studies, but Danish continued to stay in touch with us. He was an incredible photographer and each of his stories stood out; his coverage of the Delhi riots and that of the COVID-19 outbreak in India among others. We also awarded him the outstanding alumni award in 2018 after he won the Pulitzer Prize. I remember him talking about his work at Reuters and being at some of the trickiest combat zones all over the world as a result thereof. But he was also a careful photojournalist and spoke at length about the precautions one must take in such situations. This is why his death under these circumstances comes as such a huge shock.” – Dr. Sabeena Gadihoke, professor of Video and TV Production, who also taught Siddiqui during his postgraduate degree at the institution between 2005-2007. 

“Deeply saddened that we just lost Danish Siddiqui, my student and Pulitzer Prize winning Photojournalist with Reuters. It was an honour to teach and mentor Danish and we had even honoured him for his incredible and very powerful human interest stories from across the world. He’s gone too soon. Danish was an exceptional human being, an exemplary photographer with a deep sense of empathy, a keen sense of his surroundings, and an incredible eye for detail. Blessed with an almost superhuman ability, grit, tenacity to go after stories which have been both compelling and have advanced the cause of human rights in nations fraught with war and conflict. He was our eye and he gave voice and agency to thousands whose suffering might have been lost. If a picture is worth a thousand words, his were worth millions. He laid his life in the line of duty. And this is a tragedy of mammoth proportions. He will never be forgotten!” – professor Farhat Basir Khan, who taught Siddiqui at MCRC. 

“It is hard to process this news at the moment. Danish was a very dedicated individual who would never shirk off his responsibility. He was so attached to MCRC that even at the peak of his coverage of COVID-19 second wave in India, he made time to spend two hours interacting with the students. His work was daring yet sensitive. Much of his work has the capacity to go down in history as iconic images.” — Suhail Akbar, professor for photography at AJK MCRC. 

“He was always like an elder brother to me. His parents’ house is only a few meters away from mine. We would often travel together while returning from reporting assignments. I remember one day while discussing my plan to pursue Ph.D., he too expressed an interest to pursue research sometime in the future. On-field, I always saw him prepared with his gear on. My last conversation with him was when both of us were in Bijnor. We couldn’t meet because he was leaving for Delhi the next day. But he promised that he’ll be back and we’ll meet.” — Javed Sultan, freelance photographer, staff, and Ph.D. candidate at AJK MCRC. 

“Danish was a hard taskmaster and a go-getter. What made him stand apart was his people’s skills. He wouldn’t just shoot visuals but talk to people and own the place. This showed in his work as well. Something that Danish would capture could not be done by other photographers. Reuters India photo desk was heavily dependent on his work and he would always get the work done. Danish was among those journalists who were well-connected on the ground and great at leading the photo team.” – Zeyad Masroor Khan (MA CJ 2010-2012), who worked with Siddiqui at Reuters during 2015-2017. 

“Danish was someone who we all looked up to, as a mentor and a brother. Through riots, protests, and in the barren aftermath, Danish was the one who stood in the eye of the storm. And some times, when cub reporters like us (emboldened by his sheer courage) would arrive at the peripheries of these storms, we would by some chance, meet Danish. We’d ask a question or two, and he’d answer. We’d learn a bit more. A friend and I once asked him how he took the photo of the mob lynching the man without being assaulted himself, and he pointed to the sky with one finger, a small smile running across his face. I can’t believe I will never get to find him in the field and be able to ask him a question again. I can’t believe that we have been blinded to the world that Danish exposed us to – the mirror that showed us who we truly have become as a people,” — Seraj Ali (MA CJ 2018-2020), a multimedia reporter at The Wire, who attended a session by Siddiqui in Jamia in 2018. 

“We were writing one of our journalism exams today when this news broke and it has been very sad and unsettling. The only memory I have of him is when he came to take a guest lecture in our first semester and showed us his work. His pictures had a wonderful ‘intent’ about them which stayed with me. Apart from the many good things he knowingly and unknowingly taught us, he also spoke at length on safety, survival, and family. I hope his family lives as well as he imagined, spoke, and thought of them,” Bhumika Saraswati, an outgoing postgraduate student of journalism at MCRC.