The work that must go in producing a newspaper every day cannot ever be postponed. Three months is a long time in the life of a daily and those who make it – reporters, editors and members of its administrative and managerial staff. But for us at Kashmir Reader it felt like just the next day after October 2 when a posse of police walked into our office announcing a government gag on the four-year-old newspaper. Journalism, as those who practice it know well, is not like any other means of livelihood but a profession of great responsibility and accountability to the people, the readers. The time away from our readers has been a time of meditation, deep reflection on the practice and arduous evolution of English language journalism in Kashmir as well as the challenges journalists reporting Kashmir often face. More importantly, it has also been a heartening time when colleagues from the press, members of civil society and the just formed Kashmir Editors Guild stood with us in demanding to uphold the public right to free flow of information and making available to our readers the broadest possible range of opinion and perspectives on what faces Kashmir. Our greatest pleasure is in resuming our duty to our readers, the most important aspect of a newspaper, to whom we owe gratitude. We regret not being able to be with you for nearly three months.
The ban on Kashmir Reader came as Kashmir was witnessing an unprecedented popular uprising against the status quo on the dispute over Kashmir. Much was reported as people confronted the government forces and how the state chose to respond, stories of killings, of bloodshed, maiming and blinding by the weapons the forces chose for controlling the protest that resonated far and wide across the world all of the second half of 2016. The unrest also sent the relations between New Delhi and Islamabad spiraling to dangerous levels of hostility. However, a lot remains unreported as access of journalists to sites of protest left much to be wanted. The overwhelming nature and intensity of the protest itself was difficult to keep pace with.
A lot of global commentary about one of the world’s longest pending disputes appeared in the international press. But a lot of that didn’t reach readers in Kashmir as access to internet and printed material remained suspended for months together. We at Kashmir Reader once again commit ourselves to continue trying to make sense of this historic phase for our readers taking into account what many might have missed out on. We will continue to be a space for nurturing a sharp discourse, reflection and commentary on what concerns the average Kashmiri in the most comprehensive manner possible, within the intellectual resources available from the entire spectrum of perspectives and opinion.
When a government decides to ban a newspaper, unheard of in the 21st century until we were arbitrarily barred from publishing, it could either mean the administration’s lack of confidence in addressing the cause(s) of such widespread unrest or a failure to muster required political resources for a process of resolution. Real peace and confidence return when a focused process is in place. There is no gainsaying everything should be fine before peace returns! Any government anywhere in the world whatever the political or economic condition it finds itself in has to in all circumstances ensure the rights of the citizen and accord the highest respect to historical truths and well-founded public sentiment for freedoms the ideal (not necessarily how it is practiced in many parts of the world) of democracy promises. For it is the people who make democracies not the ruling classes who must represent the yearning for real and meaningful democracy. As we at Kashmir Reader go about hitting the stands again in service of our readers, it is with the hope that the worst is over and the best is yet to come. Let the space for debate, dialogue and accountability come about and be nurtured.