1.Reporting the Kashmir lockdown: ‘What sort of normalcy is this?’ | The Listening Post (Lead)
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi made good on his election promise to revoke Article 370 of the Indian constitution, he swept away what little remained of Kashmiri autonomy.
The region – officially called Jammu and Kashmir in India – is now set to come under the complete control of the government in New Delhi.
More Indian troops have flooded in and communications have been cut – a near-total shutdown of the internet, mobile phones and landlines that is now into its fourth week.
“We used to be able to call our relatives. Now we don’t know who is alive or dead. I am outside my home now and no one has a clue whether I will make it back or not. They can’t even call me. Our lives have come to a standstill,” Ashfaq Waris from Srinagar tells Al Jazeera.
Two distinct news narratives have since emerged. Most Indian news outlets describe the situation in Kashmir as one of “normalcy” and insist there has been little resistance.
Then there is a handful of Indian outlets and numerous international news organisations that have discovered a very different reality on the ground.
“I am not able to understand whether this is the government of India’s declaration of war against Kashmir or something else,” Mohammed Hanif from Srinagar says. “They have suspended virtually every service here. They say: ‘There is normalcy in Kashmir.’ What sort of normalcy is this?”
Indian media argue that international news outlets are not portraying Kashmir accurately.
“The New York Times or the Washington Post or the BBC or Al Jazeera will immediately show you images of violence, of stone pelting or people being killed, death, mayhem. It’s not like that on the ground,” says Aditya Raj Kaul, strategic affairs editor of Business TV India.
“Since August 5, the decision to revoke Article 370, there hasn’t been a single death due to any of the so-called human rights violations of the security forces. So how can any international publication, be it in TV or print, justify their reportage?”
The short answer is: because we don’t really know who’s been killed – or how many. That’s what communications blackouts do. They stop the full story from getting out.
Rights activists say at least 8,000 people have disappeared after being arrested by security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir since the beginning of the conflict in 1989, though this is disputed by the Indian government.
Kashmiri novelist and journalist Mirza Waheed says for many Kashmiris, India has never acted as a democracy.
“It’s a bewilderingly diverse country, the size of a continent, you know? Numerically, it has been the world’s largest democracy,” Waheed says.
“But I once read an Indian writer, very good Indian writer, describe India as the world’s greatest experiment in democracy. You know? But the writer also said that sadly, the world’s greatest experiment in democracy is failing.”
This report contains footage shot in Srinagar during the communications blockade. The crew on the ground included producer Fahad Shah and cameraman Muzamil Aftab.
Aditya Raj Kaul – strategic affairs editor, Business Television India
Nirupama Subramanian – regional editor, The Indian Express
Mirza Waheed – journalist and novelist
Surabhi Tandon – special correspondent, France24
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