Critical hearing for Denton journalist seeking asylum
Thursday 18th May 2017 @ 11:02 by Nigel P.
News

Kashmiri investigative journalist Amitt Bhatt, now living in Denton,  has the backing of the NUJ in his quest for asylum.

Members  of the Manchester & Salford branch of the National Union of Journalists will be lending their support to the asylum plea of investigative reporter Amitt Bhatt  this morning at his tribunal in Manchester.

Following an earlier hearing in March a judge will hear evidence to determine whether to grant Amitt, asylum and leave to remain in the UK.

Amitt comes from the Kashmir region of India, which is the subject of a dispute between the ruling Indian authorities and the majority muslim Kashmiri population who largely favour independence or union with neighbouring Pakistan.

The NUJ argues that Amitt’s activities as a journalist  would make him particularly vulnerable given the current situation in India.

The union reminds us. “There have been numerous incidents against journalists including threats and intimidation, harassment, kidnapping, murder, torture, extra-judicial killings, false criminal and sedition cases, and unlawful censorship.

“Amitt worked for the newspaper Public Mail, which exposed corruption and human rights. His high-profile investigations covered the Commonwealth Games timing, scoring and results scam which saw the Chairman of the 2010 games Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi, and other senior officials jailed.

“Amitt had taken a job in the technology department of the Commonwealth Games and was reporting from the HQ in New Delhi until his cover was blown.

He reported cases of malpractice and corruption in government ministries and he exposed the exploitation and trafficking of women and malpractices in India’s political system.

In February 2011, he was detained by the authorities in a kidnapping independently confirmed by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which supports his case.

“Amitt was tortured for more than a month, including by sustained flagellation, electric shocks to the head, sleep deprivation, foot whipping and being forced to drink petrol. He was interrogated on the location of documents, his associations and other information which he had gathered in support of his journalistic activities.

After a month, he managed to escape through a toilet window, made contact with friends and supporters who provided medical attention and kept him secure, moving him from one safe house to another. But his physical and mental health were severely affected and he still suffers from ulcerative colitis, epilepsy seizures, deafness and tinnitus, migraine and depression. Amitt says: “I almost had turned into a Zombie, a walking talking dead man.”

Finally, he was able to establish contact with a friend and, with the help of supporters. a visa and flight to Britain were arranged,

Despite India’s boast to be the world largest democracy it is considered a dangerous country for journalists, particularly for those covering human rights issues in Kashmir.

There have been at least 27 journalists murdered across India since 1992, two in the last year

According to the International Federation of Journalists, the National Union of Journalists in India and the NUJ, there is ‘a culture of violence against the media in the country.’

Shortly after the publication of Amitt’s second book, his friend the investigative journalist Umesh Rajput was shot dead by two masked men on motorcycles.

Denton and Reddish MP Andrew Gwynne, raised  Amitt’s case in Parliament with Home Secretary Amber Rudd last year.

The judge presiding over today’s hearing should reach a decision in around three weeks time.