New Delhi: It was his decision to take a tea break that landed Ashutosh Tripathi the biggest story of his life. It was while he was sipping tea near the Lucknow General Post Office around noon on Saturday that a cop decided to flex his muscles and clear a lane. Tripathi captured the images despite the cop threatening him.
When the photos got published in Dainik Bhaskar the next day, and after he posted them on Facebook, the images of a 65-year-old man pleading with a cop with folded hands to not destroy an old typewriter, his livelihood, shook Uttar Pradesh and became a viral story.
“I can’t believe it. It is like a dream,” 27-year-old Tripathi told HuffPost India in a phone conversation on Monday. “My photos sparked a movement. This is the best thing about being a journalist.” Tripathi’s images of sub-inspector Pradeep Kumar smashing the typewriter of a Kishna Kumar, an elderly Hindi typist in Lucknow, have come to stand against police brutality.
The storm of rebuke which followed forced Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to suspend the cop for his appalling behaviour, and gift a new typewriter to Kishan, who, for the past 35 years, has sat outside the iconic building of the General Post Office near Hazratganj market, typing in Hindi.
On regular days, Kumar earns around Rs50 a day. On Saturday, Tripathi said that Kumar had earned only around Rs20, when the cop came around smashing shops near the GPO.
“This is the biggest story of my life. People underestimate the power of the media, but it is powerful,” he said. “I never imagined that my photos would become so big, but I have to thank social media for how far these photos reached,” Tripathi said.
Recalling how the incident unfolded on Saturday, Tripathi said that it was “fate” that he happened to be drinking tea close to where Kishan worked.
One version of the story is that Kumar was clearing the road for a VIP to pass, but shopkeepers told Tripathi that he was angry about not getting his share of bribes. Like many of his readers, the sight of elderly Kishan begging the cop to spare his typewriter is seared in the journalist’s mind. “I couldn’t believe it. It was horrible,” he said.
The cop, Tripathi said, told him to delete the pictures. “When I refused, he said, ‘don’t tell me how to do my job. You won’t be able to do anything. Why don’t you take a good photo with my name plate showing,'” the journalist said.
Tripathi was also moved by his conversation with Kishan after the incident. “He told that he has seen so many changes during his time, but now it seems that ‘nobody has any respect left for Hindi so he will have to change.'”
Tripathi’s family is from Kunda district of Uttar Pradesh. Now, they are settled in Lucknow. The journalist has two brothers and he is the only member of his family who isn’t a government employee.
While his profession was always regarded a bit unconventional, his parents are absolutely thrilled by the impact his story has made. “They are happy about the story. They are truly appreciative.”
Meanwhile, Tripathi has been inundated with “Friend Requests” on Facebook. When HuffPost tried to reach him over the social media platform, the request didn’t go through. “My phone won’t stop ringing. The battery discharges every two hours,” he said.
Tripathi graduated in journalism from Amity College in Lucknow in 2011. He then worked at Voice of Movement (a Lucknow e-paper) and Navbharat Times before joining Dainik Bhaskar.
The Elderly Typist
On Tuesday, U.P. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav also announced that Kishan would receive Rs1 lakh as compensation.
Speaking to HuffPost India, Kishan said that he welcomed the government’s attention to his case, and the public condemnation of the cop, who mistreated him, but he spoke with distress about the countless cases of police bullying and bribery which were not documented.
“The media has been surrounding me for the past three days. I don’t have much to say except that such cases are too many and have been going on for very long,” he said. “I hope that my case reminds people of that.”
In a horrifying incident last year, two constables thrashed a mentally challenged man in Muzaffarnagar. Last month, cops thrashed women from Rampur village Deoria district, who, Shakir Ali, a lawmaker from the ruling Samajwadi Party, said had torched the local police station after a road accident. “Should the police kiss the women instead of punishing them for the crime committed by them?,” he said.
Tripathi echoed similar sentiments as Kishan over police brutality in Uttar Pradesh, but reinvigorated by his recent work, the journalist intends to soldier on. “There is a long road ahead, but this has inspired me to keep going,” he said.