A group of activists who visited Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week after the state lost its special status on Saturday reiterated their claim that the Press Club of India in New Delhi had barred them from showing visuals they recorded in the region on Wednesday reportedly because they were “under pressure”.
The club’s managing committee had on Friday said that there were certain logistical problems due to which they were unable to provide the facilities required to show the footage.
The group includes activist and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) member Kavita Krishnan, economist Jean Dreze, Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movements. They visited different parts of the state such as Srinagar, Sopore, Bandipora, Anantnag, Pulwama and Pampore from August 9 to August 13.
“We all stand by the statement that permission to screen this short video report at the Press Club of India (PCI) on 14 August was denied, reportedly under pressure,” the statement by the activists said. “Our quarrel is not and was not with the PCI, but with the Government of India that is seeking to censor such spaces. We need to unitedly resist such censorship.”
The group appealed for sustained solidarity initiatives with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and also with the ones who are facing harassment, intimidation, censorship and house arrest for protesting against the Centre’s treatment of the people of the state.
They said they object to the misleading and hostile comments by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government and certain media outlets against the ones speaking on the “clampdown on democracy” in the region.
The activists warned against possible attempts by Pakistan to sponsor cross-border terror and appropriate the Kashmir matter for its own vested interests after the Modi-led administration’s decision to repeal Article 370, taking away Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and splitting the region into two Union Territories.
They added that the recent moves on Jammu and Kashmir must have the consent of the people of the state and that “the voices, concerns and sufferings of the Kashmiri people must not, yet again, be reduced to an India-Pakistan slanging match.”
The activists on Wednesday had claimed that they were not allowed to show video or audio recordings they had collected from their visit. “Press Club told us that we are not allowed to use their projector,” Krishnan had said. “But privately we were told by the club authorities that they were under surveillance and pressure.”
The group had claimed that Jammu and Kashmir has become an “open jail” and that the narrative presented by authorities was different from what they had seen. “The heavy military presence is there only to control the population from protesting no matter how peaceful they may be,” Dreze had alleged.
However, Press Club of India authorities who spoke to Scroll.in refuted the allegations. They said the club upheld the freedom of expression and will continue to do the same in the future.
Here is the statement by the four authors of the ‘Kashmir Caged’ report:
We deeply appreciate the public’s keen interest in the ‘Kashmir Caged’ report and video report.
We all stand by the statement that permission to screen this short video report at the Press Club of India (PCI) on 14 August was denied, reportedly under pressure. Our quarrel is not and was not with the PCI, but with the Government of India that is seeking to censor such spaces. We need to unitedly resist such censorship.
We appeal for sustained solidarity initiatives with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and also with persons all over India who are facing harassment, intimidation, censorship and even house arrest for protesting the treatment meted out to Jammu and Kashmir and its people.
We also object to the misleading and hostile comments made by the Prime Minister, the Government and certain propagandist media outlets, inciting animosity towards Indian citizens who are speaking up against the clampdown on democracy in Kashmir.
We also caution against possible attempts by the government of Pakistan to fish in the troubled waters, sponsor cross-border terror and appropriate the Kashmir issue for its own vested interests.
The voices, concerns and sufferings of the Kashmiri people must not, yet again, be reduced to an India-Pakistan slanging match. The people of Jammu & Kashmir must have a voice in matters and decisions that concern their lives and region*.
Kavita Krishnan, Jean Drèze, Maimoona Abbas Mollah, Vimal Bhai