Report from Kashmir by a team from the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and the Free Speech Collective (FSC) .
A month after the 5 August abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the continuing shutdown of communication in the Kashmir valley has resulted in the throttling of independent media. As journalists continue to face severe restrictions in all the processes of news-gathering, verification and dissemination, the free flow of information has been blocked, leaving in its wake a troubled silence that bodes ill for freedom of expression and media freedom.
In this, the latest and most intense phase in the ongoing conflict on Kashmir, the government of India has pulled out all the stops – political, legislative, militaristic and punitive. It has detained and arrested scores of people, including leaders of mainstream political parties. No other democratic government has attempted a communication blockade of this scale in Kashmir.
In an effort to determine the impact of the severe crackdown on communication on the media in Kashmir, a two-member team from the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and the Free Speech Collective (FSC) spent five days in the Valley between 30 August and 3 September. The team spoke* to more than 70 journalists, correspondents and editors of newspapers and news-sites in Srinagar and South Kashmir, members of the local administration and citizens.
Key findings : Curbs on the media and its implications
I write this open letter to you as a well wisher, and someone who has been seriously supportive of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) through all the ups and downs in the years since its formation. Perhaps like many others, I too have high expectations of the experiment that AAP is and the new ground it has tried to break in terms of providing a government that has steadfastly kept the interests of the common person in mind while taking decisions.
But I also write this letter because I, like many others, have been perturbed by some developments which do not augur well for the future either of your party or of the country. The latter in any case, is set on a disastrous course, thanks to the current dispensation at the Centre. Let me also make it clear right away that I am not one of those who criticize AAP for ‘lacking a clear ideology’ and I in fact value the fact that on many critical issues, AAP has been able to resist the pressure to step into well trodden, familiar responses to specific situations and issues – especially well trodden among Leftists. But I do think that AAP needs to think a bit more seriously about politics – which is not the same thing as ideology.
Continue reading Nationalism and Politics – An Open Letter to Arvind Kejriwal
Determined, defiant – not the Kashmiri women of Sanghi fantasies
Protest in Srinagar against the abrogation of Article 370 on August 11, 2019, despite the clampdown by the Indian government. Image courtesy The Wall Street Journal.
When trolls on social media started circulating photographs of young Kashmiri girls, gloating, “now we can marry them”, it was only the overt manifestation by Sanghis of the real spirit behind abrogating Article 370. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi held forth at length on development, rights to education, rights for women and for Dalits, all of which the people of J&K were deprived of because of Article 370, the truth of course, is that J&K stands in the top 10 to 15 states on different indicators ranging from life expectancy, people served per government doctor, poverty rate and infant mortality rate, to human development index.
Or as Haseeb Drabu puts it:
The level of economic empowerment is evident from the fact that more than 25% of the household earnings in J&K are from own cultivation. In “prosperous” Punjab, it is only 18%, in “vibrant” Gujarat, it is less than 16% and in “terrific” Tamil Nadu, it is only 3%. And yet, J&K is being portrayed as a “sick” state.
Continue reading Mujh se integration karogi? Sanghvaad and its war on women