Danish Siddiqui laid to rest in Jamia Millia Islamia, the university that shaped him

People took a minute to perform namaz-e-janaza, the Islamic funeral prayer, around 10 pm, after which he was buried at the graveyard of Jamia Millia Islamia.

Gaffar Manzil, Gali Number 5, the lane where Danish grew up, was lined with people clad in white on Sunday evening.

The news that his body had reached Delhi Airport filled the lane by 6 pm.

Those present outside his house — fellow journalists, Jamia Millia Islamia batchmates, or people from the neighbourhood — everyone had his name on their lips, and a personal anecdote to share. “Down the road there’s a peepal tree, where we often met for tea,” recalled one journalist. Many young students and journalists said Danish, the Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist who was killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan, had been an inspiration and an ever-helpful senior.

As the cloudy skies took on a violet hue, more people gathered in the park right opposite his house. Bilal Zaidi, who grew up in the same lane and knew Danish since he was five, said, “For the last few years, we had been following each other’s work. He was a very soft-spoken and an empathetic person and his empathetic nature was reflected in his work. That is what I think is so brilliant about the Danish Siddique story”

As the number of people increased, so did the security and police deployment. A few police vans arrived just before his body reached home in a hearse van.

At 8.17 pm, the hearse van reached the house, after which the body was taken into the house, via the back gate.

Police meanwhile insisted people maintain social distance.

His wife and two children stayed inside the house. Danish used to stay with them in Delhi’s Nizamuddin for the last few years.

After completing the rituals, the body was taken in the van to Jamia, his alma mater. Hundreds of people followed on foot, some in their vehicles.

People took a minute to perform namaz-e-janaza, the Islamic funeral prayer, around 10 pm, after which he was buried at the graveyard of Jamia Millia Islamia, near Azeem Dairy.

Among those present for the entire ritual was Md Meharban, a freelance photojournalist, who looked up to Danish as a mentor and accompanied him on most of his assignments. He said, “I was always very inspired by his work. While covering the Delhi riots, we had saved each other a few times. He always used to say that war is nothing in comparison to the riots that we witnessed.”

Meharban was also recording a documentary about Danish, and he did not expect it to end this way. “He had started from the bottom and persevered until he made it, and he always asked me to do the same.” He said that Danish always wanted to show the truth, no matter how difficult the assignment was.

“He used to take me everywhere… but not into the ICU during the second wave. He went there by himself.”

The last time Meharban spoke to him was when he was in Afghanistan. “He told me he was safe… He told me that he would be back soon.”

He said that his legacy would live on, not only in the photos he clicked but also in the people he touched: “After clicking photos, he would trace his subjects to see if they were doing alright.”

He said that he shared a very special bond with his wife and children. They had gone to Germany for a holiday, and reached Delhi earlier today. “If you showed them two photos; one clicked by another photographer, and one clicked by him, his family would immediately point to his.”

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