When Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government scrapped Article 370 and stripped Kashmir from its special status and semi autonomy, Tension in Kashmir hit a new turning point. The Indian government posted more army troops despite it being a heavily militarised area, imposed a complete curfew and a harsh curb on basic and civil rights. The internet, cellphone, landline and cable service in the region was completely cut off. The area was laced with razor wire roadblocks.
The Indian government stated that this move was essential to forestall protests and attacks by rebels seeking independence or Pakistani rule over the region. Thousands of activists, journalists, even children and women were arrested. Politicians were detained. The valley was going through some really dark times. The journalists were finding it hard to show the story of India's crackdown on Kashmir from August last year to the world. It was amidst this chaos that Associated Press photographers Mukhtar Khan, Yasin Dar and Channi Anand three photojournalists from Jammu & Kashmir won the Pulitzer prize 2020 in the feature photography category. The trio captured images of protests, police and paramilitary action and daily life. Yasin and Khan are based in Kashmir’s city Srinagar and Anand is based in Jammu.
The Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in journalism, had been postponed for two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dana Canedy, who administers the awards, delivered the news from her living room via video-conference instead of a ceremony at Columbia University in New York. The Pulitzer prize has been handed out since 1917, when newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer established it in his will.
“Snaking around roadblocks, sometimes taking cover in strangers’ homes and hiding cameras in vegetable bags...then headed to an airport to persuade travellers to carry the photo files out with them and get them to the AP’s office in New Delhi,” the news agency described the hurdles of reporting in a statement. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the photographers’ work was important. “This honor continues AP’s great tradition of award-winning photography,” he added. “Thanks to the team inside Kashmir, the world was able to witness a dramatic escalation of the long struggle” for what he described as “the region’s independence”.
Controversy over 'Rahul Gandhi's tweet
The Indian right wing was very disappointed by people appreciating the work of these journalists to bring out stories from the conflict zone. The International fraternity lauding the efforts of these journalists was too much for the Indian Right wing to handle. Things turned even bitter after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted by offering his congratulations to the 'INDIAN' photojournalists for their 'POWERFUL' images in the valley.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra was quick to take note of this and took some serious offence to Rahul Gandhi's congratulatory tweet. He said, "Will Sonia Gandhi answer? Whether She and the Congress Party concur with Rahul Gandhi on the issue of Kashmir not being an integral part of India!Rahul today congratulated those who got an award for considering Kashmir as a “Contested Territory”! He also used the hashtag #AntiNationalRahulGandhi .
The Indian right wing termed the Pulitzer prize Anti- national but they forgot that it supports the best in journalism and not political propaganda . These three photographers just documented the reality on the ground , they were not working for some political agenda. We should celebrate the awards this year and many more journalists that deserve such accolades.