Monday, 10 May, 2010

Stakeout at Arthur Road Jail: Photo-Essay

Day 1 - Sunday: Preparing for tomorrow. OB vans line up outside Arthur Road jail to pick their spots for the media frenzy that will begin on Monday as national and international media descend on Arthur Road to cover Judge M.L. Taihliyani's verdict on Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only captured terrorist of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. The trial has been in the news for past 18th months.

A multitude of mikes, cameras, cables and satellite dishes jostle for prime space to capture the action.

Day 2, Monday: The journalists have gathered since 7.30 am to snatch bytes from the lawyers as they make their way to court around 11:am and wait for the verdict that will be out anytime between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. It's going to be a long day for the media.

A little girl waves her permit to pass through the fortified area around the Jail. In this unnatural atmosphere the residents of Arthur Road went about their daily business with ID's and children played and cycled while the Indo-Tibetian Border Police patrolled with AK-47s and Rocket Launchers.

The ITBP patrol breaks the line of the chosen ones! One journalist from each news organization wait in line to enter and witness the session in court.

Filling in the news slot between 11:00 am till the verdict arrives is not easy but not especially creative either.

The Photographers Huddle: everyone tried to get to higher ground to get a clean shot above the head of the crowds. About 30 photographers cram inside one barricade and stand for 8 hours in the sun, securing their spot for that one minute of intense activity that creates photographic history.

Taking a break: Towards afternoon, the Times Now crew takes a breather.

The photographers huddle spread across the tree go into a Banana Break.

Even the ITBP dig into their army sized lunch boxes.

Almost as soon as lunch is over a sea of brown covers the area, anticipating the verdict and the exit of public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikkam from the security check point.

The media, known to get uncontrollable, is confined behind tall yellow barricades, mostly from preventing harm to their own people and equipment while rushing to get sound bytes, rather than trampling lawyers.

The man of the moment: Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikkam finally makes his appearance, poses for shots, gives adequate speeches and quotes and answers all the journalists questions, making the long wait worth their while.

Day 3: Thursday, the day of the sentencing. The wait is shorter this time but more nail biting as everyone wants to be the first to break news in an atmosphere where exclusivity is impossible.

Above: The first journalist out of the court room, screaming 'fasi - fasi' to let the waiting media know an outcome everyone had already predicted. Then started the charade of breaking news on televisions! Below: The rest follow suit,running out of the courtroom and to their cameras.

Ten minutes after the sentencing is heard, photographers are at Mumbai Central, where 'symbolically' the Muslims are celebrating the verdict and sentencing.

The media gathers at Bhendi Bazar, a predominantly Muslim area in Mumbai where another symbolic demonstration is about to begin. This is about 20 min after the sentencing.

There is something deeply problematic in a situation where 7-10 yr old children hold placards and scream ‘Pakistan Murdabad’

' Celebrating' a hanging with fireworks.