May 5, 2020 10:44 pm

Curbs, Concealed Cameras, Couriered Chips: How Kashmir Won Pulitzer

For their “striking images of life”, two Kashmiri journalists alongwith their Jammu-based colleague have won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. The award is a global recognition of the challenging journalistic work in Kashmir Valley which plunged into communication crisis last summer after New Delhi abrogated the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370.

Jyotsna Bharti

FROM hiding their cameras in vegetable sacks to courier their chips to their New Delhi office through some air-borne travellers, the two Kashmiri photojournalists did it all to picture Kashmir during its worst communication crisis last summer.

They recall the times with bemused faces, when they had to seek shelter in peoples’ homes to stay close to the action spot.

With phones dead and internet snapped, following the abrogation of J&K’s special status, these photojournalists like their tribe couldn’t contact their families for days together. And with additional troops manning the streets in the valley then, some of them even faced the street hostility.

However, nine months later, Mukhtar Khan and Dar Yasin, along with their Jammu-based Associated Press (AP) colleague, Channi Anand, have bagged the prestigious Pulitzer for their remarkable work.

The award announced by Pulitzer board administrator Dana Canedy on Youtube amid the coronavirus outbreak has been given to Khan and Yasin for their exceptional work in the valley after the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August 2019.

Soon after the announcement, Mukhtar Khan who began his journalism career with Kashmir Observer was seen sharing a happy family frame.

Similar joyous scenes came from the Dar Yasin’s home following the announcement.

In an official statement on their website, Pulitzer said the Kashmiri photographers were selected for their “striking images of life in the disputed Himalayan territory”.

The Pulitzer-winning photographers have risked their lives to showcase the turmoil and mayhem of Kashmiri People when curbs and curfew made Kashmir an information blackhole.

“It was always cat-and-mouse,” Yasin recalled the trying time. “These things made us more determined than ever to never be silenced.”

“This honour continues AP’s great tradition of award-winning photography,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt.

“Thanks to the team inside Kashmir,” Gary Pruitt added, “the world was able to witness a dramatic escalation of the long struggle over the region’s independence. Their work was important and superb.”

Channi Anand, AP’s Jammu photographer, said the award left him speechless.

“I was shocked and could not believe it,” he said, calling the prize-winning photos a continuation of the work he’s been doing for 20 years with the AP.”

People across the valley are showering love and respect to these “larger than life” photographers who chose to essay their story to the world in their way and let Kashmir depict its story via them.

Yasin says their prize-winning work has both professional and personal meaning to him.

“It’s not the story of the people I am shooting, only, but it’s my story,” Dar said. “It’s a great honour to be in the list of Pulitzer winners and to share my story with the world.”

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