Today is twentieth anniversary of the publication of Kashmir Observer. It was on March 2, 1997 that KO hit the stands. It was a time when Kashmir was in the throes of a full-blown armed movement. In India, BJP was in the ascendant and the countrys most recognisable Hindutva face Atal Bihari Vajpayee would soon become the Prime Minister and complete the term, the first non-Congress PM to do. India and Pakistan would soon test nuclear weapons. Vajpayee would take a bus journey to Lahore. Kargil war would follow soon after. These were extraordinary times.
Kashmir’s news space, though not directly involved, experienced the fallout of these events. Kashmir got sucked into this evolving complex geo-political reality which not only made the state a seamless extension of a destabilizing state of affairs stretching from Kabul to Srinagar but also turned it into a battleground for the contending ideological narratives of India and Pakistan and their respective ideas of nationhood. This had created a fraught climate for journalism, reducing the coverage of Kashmir to a little more than reproduction of the press statements issued by the government and the militant outfits. And to bring out a brand new newspaper in these circumstances with an ambition to be different and committed to the core principles of journalism seemed to make little sense. But against all these odds we went ahead, with little more than faith in journalism and a desire to succeed in our hearts.
We wanted KO to tell the intrinsic story of Kashmir without the necessary means and resources to do it. There was only a rudimentary media infrastructure to build upon and little professional reporting talent to count on. But we went ahead, never letting our major handicaps to overcome us, until from a hesitant, tentative effort to articulate the situation in the state, we rose to become a conspicuous independent voice of the intrinsic narrative of Kashmir, if not a dominant newspaper.
In a place where sponsored discourses overlap with the state of affairs, we rescued and reflected the truth as it existed on the ground. Our priorities were and remain different. Instead of breaking news and rushing through the stories, we chose to dwell on them and tell them well. We chose to tell the stories that went beyond the quick, ephemeral immediacy of the breaking news. We chose to be a platform for stories that demanded a long telling; the stories that dont just skim the surface but require diving right in. More so when so many stories lie scattered around us a big chunk of it the huge humanitarian fallout of the situation of the past thirty years. The individual stories, the collective stories, some of which still unfolding, imbuing and impacting the present, reflecting the larger realities, both personal and the political.
At the same time, the KO was there to reflect, interpret and analyse the present through stories that underpin and determine the political and social trends that shape our lives. It was there to tell stories full of perspective, revelation, and insight. Going forward, we promise to not only live up to the rich tradition of KO journalism but also further improve on this. We are also moving on to digital and electronic journalism as this is where the future of journalism is. Here we also thank our esteemed readers for staying the course with us, even through our tough times. Without their support, this eventful journey would hardly have been possible.
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Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.