New Delhi: Social activists who had gone on a five-day fact-finding mission to Kashmir claimed Wednesday that the Press Club of India denied permission to screen a short film and other footage they recorded.
CPI(ML) member Kavita Krishnan, economist Jean Drèze, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) member Maimoona Mollah and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) member Vimal Bhai held a press conference at the club to talk about their findings after “extensive travel” in Kashmir from 9 to 13 August, saying that outside Srinagar, they had been to Anantnag, Shopian, Pampore, Sopore and Bandipora.
Krishnan said theirs was the first team to go beyond Srinagar and “find out what has been happening in Kashmir” since the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August. But having shared their experiences and the conversations they had with local residents, they claimed the Press Club denied them permission to use the projector to screen any footage, including a PowerPoint presentation as well as 10-minute film they recorded in Kashmir.
“We have just been informed that the Press Club isn’t giving us permission to show the short 10-minute film we prepared on what we saw in Kashmir,” Drèze said.
“If Press Club isn’t allowing us to show this, which other place will allow us? We can anticipate it won’t be allowed to be screened at any other press clubs or universities.”
A Press Club office-bearer who did not wish to be named told ThePrint that the team was given permission to conduct a press conference.
“Now, if they are alleging they were denied permission to show footage, it must be because of some technical glitch or limitations. As long as everything is in accordance with the law, there is no censorship at the Press Club,” the office-bearer said, refusing to comment any further.
Press Club ‘under pressure’
Krishnan claimed the activists were told by Press Club employees that it is “under pressure”.
“Just when we were about to start setting up in the hall, we were told by people who work at the Press Club that we cannot screen any footage. We went and spoke to the people at the reception, who said they have been told by their bosses not to allow us to use the projector,” she said.
“We even spoke to the office-bearers of the Press Club, who told us we can’t screen anything because some goons might disrupt the screening. They might be scared, but I think they were just playing it safe. Who could have disrupted a press conference attended by so many? Moreover, in times of pressure, we all need to show a spine.”
The team members released the short film on YouTube.
‘Desolate, silent, caged’
The team members said in their travel through Kashmir, they realised things were far from normal. “One young man in Sopore said ‘Yeh hai bandook ki khamoshi, kabrastan ki khamoshi’ (This is silence at gunpoint, the peace of the graveyard),” their report stated.
“In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by the police or the Army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention.”
The report also talked about how the simmering anger and protests are unlikely to die down. “Jitna zulm karenge, utna hum ubhrenge (the more you oppress us, the more we will rise up),” was a familiar refrain, the report stated.
It also alleged that “curfew-like” conditions have been imposed in Kashmir by the Narendra Modi government. On being asked how the team was able to move around in such conditions, Drèze said they were able to travel, but most establishments were shut.
“Except for some ATMs, chemist shops and police stations, most establishments were shut. People’s jobs and livelihood also took a hit. As far as our travel is concerned, we were stopped and checked at various points — but only as much as any other person travelling,” he said.
The clampdown has also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too around the Eid-ul-Adha festival that is meant to celebrate abundance, the report noted.
“Kashmir is desolate, silent and caged,” AIDWA’s Mollah said, adding that the women of Kashmir don’t need anyone to rescue them.
“The women said they don’t need protection from the likes of those who pick up their brothers illegally,” she said.