At around 7 am on Friday, I was up and about when a colleague informed me about the passing away of Muddasir Ali. I received the bad tiding with a sense of utter disbelief as he was too young to leave.
Muddasir, a fine journalist, was a colleague at Greater Kashmir. Let me hark back to our first meeting. One fine evening in 2018, I dropped in at the office of Greater Kashmir and walked straight to the reception, and asked for Muddasir Ali. The receptionist phoned him and after a couple of minutes a sturdy young man, sporting a scraggy beard showed up and ushered me in a news room packed with a bevy of reporters. The scene at the newsroom was no way different from what I had witnessed at other newspaper offices. Some of the reporters were busy on phone speaking to officials about their stories, some were arguing with their co-workers about their beats while a few were pressing the keys of their computers at a rate of knots.
In the news room, Muddasir announced, with a smile flickering across his face, that I was going to be their new colleague and would cover the powder keg, south Kashmir. Some of the reporters exchanged smiles with me while others were quite unmoved and continued with their work. I sat next to Muddasir on a green colored ecrepit chair and we started talking about the stories. After a few minutes, I left the office. Ever since both of us shared a good professional bond. He umpteen times shared story ideas with me and discussed about how to tell the stories from different and fresh angles. He was very particular about not to make his stories appear stale to the readers.
He would travel through the length and breadth of the Valley to find the good stories, even if it meant putting his neck on the line. Many a time he had a close shave on the troubled spots, which he visited to get the ground reports.
In May 2018, Muddasir was caught between protestors and security forces in south Kashmir’s Shopian district where five civilian died during street protesters over the killing of five militants including a Kashmir University professor.
“Bullets whizzed past above my head but luckily none grazed me”, I clearly recollect the day he told me.
Muddasir was among a very few journalists who had the temerity to call a spade a spade. Be it politics, power, conflict, or human rights, the stout hearted scribe reported fearlessly and was always non-partisan in his story-telling approach. He was a die-hard journalist who was very passionate about writing. Once on a late December evening in 2018, we talked over phone for a good 30 minutes. During our conversation he told me that he was addicted to journalism and he couldn’t help writing.
Apart from Greater Kashmir, he would contribute stories to The Wire on a regular basis. For the news website, he wrote dozens of elaborative pieces which more often than not elicited debate among the journalistic as well as academic tribes. His works have also appeared in some international publications like Foreign Policy.
Muddasir was every inch a professional. Last time we met in December 2019 at a media centre in Srinagar which was established post 5 August internet ban. He parked his bike in the well manicured lawns of the centre and after exchanging pleasantries he rushed inside the centre telling me that he would send across a story while a smile flickered on his face.
I had never imagined that a snow white shroud will cover his smiling face so soon. Rest in peace !