From SC’s 4G Decree to Pulitzer Protest: Kashmir in Top Banners

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Be it exhaustive analysis written on the recent insurgent passage or the letter against the prestigious Pulitzer won by two Kashmiri photojournalists, the valley-centric news discourse seems once again catching steam as well as scream amid pandemic.

Swati Joshi

WITH blatant belligerence in the ruling rightwing regime ranks on the dogged dispute, comes a collection of commentary on the fresh fireworks in the valley sealing the fate of the top gun.

As Kashmir remains newsmen’s paradise and newsroom staple, some top news doing rounds is mainly about restrictions, reviews, and refusals.

Determining the pulse of the times, some of these news trends are clear departure from the usual Covid coverage.

Elusive Network

After witnessing a lot of judicial drama, Supreme Court of India on Monday refrains from passing 4G restoration ruling in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

A three-judge bench of the apex court comprising of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and BR Gavai headed by Justice Ramana ordered to form a committee from MHA and J&K UT administration in this regard.

Before the courtroom D-Day on Monday, SC had received petitions for the restoration of 4G services in Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that 2G network is insufficient for education, healthcare and business purposes during the pandemic.

The restrictions on internet services were imposed in the valley when Article 370 which granted semi-autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped by the Bhartiya Janta Party-led central government on August 5, dividing the erstwhile state into two union territories.

It has been nine months since 4G services were removed from the valley.

The petitioners led by Forum of Media Professionals, represented by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi and advocate Shadan Farasat, had argued that Kashmiris are not even able to download ‘Arogya Setu’ App with 2G speed. The use of the app is recommended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had reserved its order after hearing arguments from the petitioners and the Centre’s representatives Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Personalities against Pulitzer

More than 100 personalities including vice-chancellors of Indian universities, retired defense personnel, former senior bureaucrats, Olympians and Padma Shri awardees have written an open letter against Pulitzer board for awarding Kashmiri photojournalists, Mukhtar Khan and Dar Yasin.

The letter alleged the photojournalists of producing photos that are “full of venom against their own country, people and police” and spreading fake news.

Channi Anand, Mukhtar Khan, and Dar Yasin, the Jammu & Kashmir based Associated Press photojournalists won the 2020 Pulitzer award for Feature Photography category for their coverage of Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year.

Unlike Khan and Yasin, Anand was not objected in the letter because his photos “do not malign India” and he didn’t use the term “Indian-controlled Kashmir”.

The letter objected the use of ‘contested territory’ for Kashmir by the Pulitzer committee on the citation alleging that it is a “deliberated attempt to project India in a bad light”.

“…You exposed yourself by showcasing your poor knowledge and understanding of historical facts related to Jammu-Kashmir,” the letter added.

Emphasizing the purpose of Pulitzer Prize is to encourage free journalism, the letter stated, “Ironically, by giving the prize to photographers like Dar Yasin and Mukhtar Khan, you are promoting journalism and photography of lies, misrepresentation of facts, and separatism.”

Contested Forecasts

In retaliation against the inclusion of Gilgit-Baltistan, Mirpur and Muzaffarabad in the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) weather forecasts, Radio Pakistan broadcaster has included “Indian Occupied Kashmir” in its daily weather bulletins.

“In most parts of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” Radio Pakistan tweeted, “partly cloudy weather is expected with chances of rain.”

In a series of tweets, the Pakistan owned broadcaster also reported the minimum and maximum temperature of Srinagar, Pulwama, and Jammu.

Earlier, India decided to include weather forecasts of regions under “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)” when IMD put Gilgit-Baltistan, Mirpur and Muzaffarabad under the Jammu & Kashmir subdivision.

State-owned broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio started broadcasting weather reports on Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit in their prime-time news bulletins from Friday.

The Indian move to include “PoK” regions came amidst Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to allow Islamabad to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. Till the elections take place the Pakistan Supreme Court ordered to form an interim caretaker government in the region.

The tenure of the Gilgit-Baltistan government is going to expire in June and the elections for the Council will be held after two months.

In response to Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision the Ministry of External Affairs said that the government of Pakistan or its judiciary “has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Kashmir”.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a “disputed region” between India and Pakistan. Though it is administrated by Islamabad since 1947, it is not officially integrated with Pakistan.

Communication Crisis

At a time when internet connectivity is of prime importance to communicate with doctors, the valley of Kashmir reels under a communication blackout.

Suspension of mobile internet and SMS services in Kashmir continues after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Reyaz Naikoo on May 6.

The valley is in the lockdown since the third week of March following the national lockdown protocol implemented by the government. The situation in the valley was calm except for a few local protests in South Kashmir.

After analyzing the situation in Kashmir post the killing of Naikoo, the authorities have allowed private telecom operators to resume their services from Friday night restricting the internet and SMS services.

Kashmir has reported 861 cases of coronavirus with nine casualties. A lot of people especially those facing medical emergency are finding it difficult to connect to doctors amidst the communication blackout. Many people expressed their pain on social media.

“The communication blackout in #Kashmir has caused major obstructions in the response against COVID-19,” a Kashmiri netizen wrote. “The communication blackout would only make it worse. Maximum number of households in Kashmir doesn’t have landlines in case of a medical emergency, there is no way to call (an) ambulance.”

This is a lockdown inside a lockdown, another netizen said.

Delimitation during Pandemic

The Delimitation Commission has written to the speakers of Lok Sabha and assemblies of J&K, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, to start the process of delimiting parliamentary and assembly constituencies of Jammu & Kashmir and the four northeastern states.

At present Jammu & Kashmir has no Legislative Assembly.

To assist the Delimitation commission members of Parliament and assemblies of the states for which the commission is established are going to help the panel in its task.

The Delimitation panel was set up on March 6 by the government to delimit Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of J & K, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

According to a Law Ministry notification, the delimitation panel will redraw the constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir following the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, and of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland following the provisions of the Delimitation Act, 2002.

The union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were formed on October 31, 2019 after the state was reorganized and bifurcated into two union territories by the Center.

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Swati Joshi

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