Koraput/Bhubaneswar: Even as condolences pour in from across the globe over the death of celebrated photo journalist Danish Siddiqui who was shot dead while covering a fierce clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants near a border crossing with Pakistan, a remote village in far away Koraput in Odisha which is little aware of the lens man, has also joined in chorus in paying tributes to the renowned photographer on his untimely demise. But why?
To find out the reason, OTV visited the remote Pendajam village near Mathalaput in the tribal dominated district and met local ASHA worker Reena Jani, whose multiple photographs clicked by the late journalist once dominated International media space.
Jani was fully unaware about the identity and profession of Siddiqui. Little did she know that her numerous photographs shot by the journalist would become the cynosure of all eyes across the globe as a news report featuring her over Covid vaccination was published in well-known news agency Reuters.
Whatever she knew was that a Hindi-English speaking ‘Babu’ had toured her village, clicked her and surrounding photos. The big thing is that he had promised to lend a helping hand to the ASHA in carrying forward the study of her daughter who was in Class X.
“He was a nice human being. He had promised to help me out with my children’s study and told me to call him over phone at regular intervals. I was thinking to call him once after his departure, but could not connect to him since then. How he died? a grief stricken Jani asked.
“I am really grieved over the sad demise of a gentleman like him,” said Jani’s husband.
Siddiqui had once been to the remote locality in January this year to cover how Covid 19 vaccines travelled from faraway manufacturing unit to the remote and inaccessible villages of India.
Accompanied by his local colleague Jatin Dash, Siddiqui had met the Koraput Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) and Mathalput Community Health Centre (CHC) medical officer.
His news story- ‘From factory to faraway village: Behind India's mammoth vaccination drive’- was published on Retures on January 25 this year.
During his brief stint in the tribal hinterland, the Pulitzer prize winning photo journalist had become a close associate of Reena Jani’s family and her neighbours.
Koraput CDMO and Mathalput medical officer also recalled the moments they had spent with the talented photographer. “He was a thorough journalist. I observed a sense of professionalism from him during his visit for coverage. He was a nice person,” said Dr Makarand Beura, CDMO, Koraput.
“I didn’t believe the news of his death. I was shocked to learn his demise,” said Tapas Ranjan Behera, Mathalput medical officer.
Siddiqui who had been working for Reuters International for the last ten years was heading the Indian wing of the news organisation.
He had captured numerous live pictures in his camera on various issues like Nepal earthquake, Rohingya refuge issues, Covid crisis in India. He was awarded with the prestigious Pulitzer Award in 2018 for his contribution towards journalism.