SRINAGAR: Three photo journalists from Jammu and Kashmir have been awarded this years prestigious Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Kashmir in 2019.
Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand from Associated Press bagged the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for their coverage of Kashmir under lockdown following abrogation of its semi autonomous status by New Delhi on 5th of August 2019.
In making the award to the three, the Pulitzer Board said that it was “for striking images of life in the contested territory of Kashmir as India revoked its independence, executed through a communications blackout”.
“The story of crackdown on Kashmir last August was difficult to show to the world. The unprecedented lockdown included a sweeping curfew and shutdowns of phone and internet service”, AP report said following the award announcement.
“But Associated Press photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand found ways to let outsiders see what was happening. Now, their work has been honored with the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in feature photography”, the report said.
“Snaking around roadblocks, sometimes taking cover in strangers’ homes and hiding cameras in vegetable bags, the three photographers captured images of protests, police and paramilitary action and daily life ” 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”, the report added.
‘It was always cat-and-mouse,’ AP quoted Yasin saying. ‘These things made us more determined than ever to never be silenced.’
Yasin and Mukhtar are based in Srinagar, while Anand is based in Jammu district.
AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee called the Kashmir prize ‘a testament to the skill, bravery, ingenuity and teamwork of Dar, Mukhtar, Channi.’
‘At a time when AP’s journalism is of more value than ever to the world, these journalists’ courage and compelling storytelling show the absolute best of what we do,′ Buzbee said.
With communications shut down, photo journalists had to find out about protests and other news by finding them in person. Mukhtar and Yasin took turns roving the streets in and around Srinagar, Yasin said, facing mistrust from both protesters and troops. The journalists were unable for days to go home or even let their families know they were OK.
‘It was very hard,’ Mukhtar said, but ‘we managed to file pictures.’
After spotting luggage-toting people walking toward the airport, he said, the photographers decided to ask travelers to serve as couriers. Yasin also recalled how a relative of his, who was also a photojournalist, had told him about delivering film to New Delhi in person as the conflict in Kashmir raged in the 1990s.
So the AP photographers went to the Srinagar airport and sought out strangers willing to carry memory cards and flash drives to New Delhi and call AP after landing in the Indian capital.
Some flyers declined, fearing trouble with the authorities, Yasin said. But others said yes and followed through. Most of the memory cards and drives arrived.
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,’ he said. ‘It’s a great honor to be in the list of Pulitzer winners and to share my story with the world.’
The prizes, considered the most prestigious for US journalism, are associated with the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism where the judging is done and is announced, although this year it was done remotely.
Besides a certificate, the prizes carry a cash award of $15,000, except the public service category for which a gold medal is awarded.
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