After bullets, pellets, deaths; after curfew, clampdowns on mobile internet and on cable television, the Indian state has further exacerbated the war on people in Kashmir. On the night of 15 July 2016, the police raided, seized and shut down the printing presses of two leading dailies, Rising Kashmir andGreater Kashmir. When Budgam police raided the office of Rising Kashmir, it seized the English and Urdu copies ofBulund Kashmirand, it also detained the staff and harassed them. A similar story was reported from the printing office of Greater Kashmir.
The attack on the press is quite clearly a proof of the Indian state’s state of mind. It believes that by gagging the press, the Kashmir story will die. Indeed, the state has a reason to fear the Kashmir press; the local media has identified all the 43 dead; it has reported that nearly 2200 persons have been injured so far; and that nearly 100 persons are in a critical state because of pellet wounds to their eyes. (www.dailyo.in) It is this story that the state is zealously trying to gag and kill.
This war on the freedom of the press to report the dirty war that the state is brutally carrying out in Kashmir, is not new. It has happened in the past; in 1990, in 2008, in 2010; and in 2013. This time it is being justified as a ‘temporary’ measure, a ‘reluctant’ decision that the state government has imposed in order to prevent ‘multiplication of tragedies’ that is occurring as an ‘emotional lot, very young…get surcharged due to certain projections in the media”. This knee-jerk reaction of the state government and its spokesperson, Nayeem Akhtar, to blame the media for the killings in Kashmir is a sign of the times. In curfew-ridden Kashmir where people are dying and angry, this is the palliative that the government call offer: the refusal to let the people know what is happening. A refusal to let people know their own story.
On the other hand, the Centre is hoarsely claiming that it is the people of Kashmir who are to blame for their fate. The Minister of State, General (Retd) V.K. Singh stated that: “Whole world knows the power of India” and knows that India has a special recognition in the future also. Do you want to be part of this epic-story of India?It’s my request, step out of the crowd and direct your future.”(The Indian Express, 17 July 2016). Besides reminding the Minister of his not-so-famous ‘epic’ declarations in the past, it is time to also remind him and his ilk, that in a ghost valley, his words have few takers.
It is heartening to note that the crackdown on the press has been strongly protested by journalists and media personnel in Srinagar on 16July 2016. The placards at the protest meeting and the statement issued by newspaper editors, printers and publishers strongly condemned the ban and vowed to fight back. It is this spirit that the state government nor the Centre can easily tame.
PUDR strongly condemns the Centre and state governments for imposing this ban on the media in Kashmir. The freedom to think, write and disseminate information is cornerstone of any democracy , with an independent, conscious, alive and free press as the best safeguard against violations of fundamental rights, which must be protected and fought for, at all costs.