Three photojournalists from Jammu and Kashmir are among the 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners. The awards were announced virtually owing to the coronavirus outbreak.
Associated Press photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan, and Channi Anand won the prize for feature photography for their work in capturing the shutdown in Kashmir following the abrogation of special provisions under Article 370 last year.
After the revocation of Article 370, with the unprecedented lockdown which included a sweeping curfew and shutdown of phones and internet service across the union territory, it was difficult to show the world the conditions of life in Kashmir under the lockdown mainly because of the communication blackout.
But the three photojournalists captured images of protests, police and paramilitary action and daily life snaking around roadblocks, sometimes taking cover in stranger’s homes and hiding cameras in vegetable bags and then headed to an airport to persuade travelers to carry the photo files out with them and get them to the AP’s office in New Delhi.
Yasin, one among the winners said that it was always a cat and mouse race, and he added that the difficulties made them more determined than ever to never be silenced. He added “I was very excited to hear the news about my colleagues and I getting selected for the prize. We are very thankful for the support from our family and friends. We have worked very hard for it.”
The announcement by Dana Canedy, the administrator of the prizes, came late Monday, deferred by two weeks, via live stream on YouTube from her living room – rather than at a ceremony due to the coronavirus outbreak. The photographers have conferred the most prestigious award in journalism for capturing “striking images of life” in Jammu and Kashmir amidst the lockdown and communication blackout in the region.
The irony of the Pulitzer prize to these Kashmiri Journalists at a time when, another three Kashmiri Journalists were arrested for “anti-national” activities is not lost on anyone. The arrest of Peerzada Ashiq, Gowhar Geelani, and Masrat Zahra in the Valley has been widely condemned by the journalistic fraternity.
Masrat Zahara, who is a freelance photojournalist has been booked under UAPA under which a person could be jailed for up to seven years.
Peerzada Ashiq (L), Gowhar Geelani (C), and Masrat Zahra (R) are all Kashmiri journalists targeted by India’s far-right regime. | Photo: TwitterIltija Mufti, daughter of PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, congratulated the three photojournalists from AP news from her mother’s Twitter account:
Congratulations @daryasin @muukhtark_khan for your exemplary photography capturing the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir post illegal abrogation of Article 370. Bizarre that our journalists win accolades abroad but are punished under draconian laws on home turf https://t.co/FEliDToHkN
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) May 5, 2020
While on one hand where there is no response to the honour made to these journalists from the ruling government many others are congratulating and expressing their support to them including Omar Abdullah congratulating them through his tweet.
It’s been a difficult year for journalists in Kashmir & that’s saying something considering the last 30 years haven’t exactly been easy. Congratulations to @daryasin, @muukhtark_khan & @channiap on this prestigious award. More power to your cameras. https://t.co/A7SH5hUEGZ
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) May 5, 2020
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also sent a congratulatory tweet for the prize winners.
Congratulations to Indian photojournalists Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand for winning a Pulitzer Prize for their powerful images of life in Jammu & Kashmir. You make us all proud. #Pulitzer https://t.co/A6Z4sOSyN4
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 5, 2020
A prestigious award given to journalists from the valley was not well received by the Hindutva brigade. Rahul Gandhi was soon targeted by BJP´s spokesperson Sambit Patra and the troll army.
Sambit Patra attacked Congress and Rahul’s congratulatory tweet to the photojournalists and alleged him of endorsing those who considered Kashmir a “contested territory” and calling him an “anti-national”.
The citation of the Pulitzer award to the three so called Indian journalists:
1)Why did these journalists accept this award ..an award is important or the sovereignty of your Nation is?
2)Rahul Gandhi & @INCIndia congratulates them ..Does Rahul concur?#AntiNationalRahulGandhi pic.twitter.com/p7aywWDp7y
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) May 5, 2020
Dr. Patra grouse seems to be rising from the fact that the photojournalists showed the grim life in Kashmir post the revoking of article 370 and the shutdown since August 5, 2019. But can you contest the pictures because it doesn’t fit the Indian government “All is Well” narrative in Kashmir?