By Usman Khurshid
Being a regular reader, an admirer and an occasional contributor to the daily Kashmir Reader, I congratulate the staff and editor for resuming publication after a three-month-long ban. I understand how hard it would have been for the staff to deal with enforced absence. While some of you are doing your bit for the newspaper because of passion for the field of journalism, I understand, some others are doing it for livelihood. Thanks to all those who stood by the newspaper despite the ban and ensured that readers get the unshackled edition on 28th of December, as unshackled as it was on 2nd October when the daily was last published before the ban came.
We didn’t have an option to afford a grudge against the government when they banned the newspaper, and we neither have an option to complain, now that the ban has been lifted. As much as you have suffered as publishers of a newspaper, we have equally suffered as its readers. We stood firmly in solidarity with you during the ban, and we vow to continue our support if another colonial act is done against you, God forbid.
In Kashmir people have always craved for a genuine newspaper that would transparently depict the daily happenings. Due to the well known history of the Kashmir issue, this land has become politically unsettled, socially volatile and economically distraught. In the disturbing scenario like this media always stays in limelight. The local media here don’t need to make up stories out of kitchen recipes or exaggerated coverage of celebrities to compensate for the deficiency of news, instead the situation here in Kashmir ensures that media remains busy. It is a known human attribute that with rising demand, greed also rises. In Kashmir media plays a vital role in shaping the career of a politician – no matter if he belongs to mainstream or Hurriyat. If media decides to incline towards or against a political personality, a single story may very well make or ruin his career, hence the attention of the media outlets is demanded by the political parties and persons no matter at the cost of any consideration.
In Kashmir some of the major newspapers circulated are assumed by people to have been supported by a certain political ideology or a political party, to be precise unofficially affiliated to some political group, and has been frequently seen carrying stories biased towards the affiliated party. However, in that context Kashmir Reader has always stood out and ensured a neutral circulation of stories. It has been supportive of any group that has been beneficial to people and has been repugnant to every thought that aims to harm or exploit people- even if it be Hurriyat.
With the genocidal violence at its peak on 2nd October, Kashmir Reader ensured that not a single tale of atrocities goes unread, like any responsible independent media outlet would do. Instead of pondering over the disturbing stories and trying to stop it, the government dubbed the stories as provocative and a threat to ‘tranquility’. The government thought that the stories of horrible crimes committed by its forces during the 2016 uprising were more harmful than the crimes themselves. Can we expect anything worse from a government which disallows the circulation of even the sheer news, let alone the voices of dissent? Government got offended when the newspaper used the word ‘Indian forces’ to describe the men who were laden with Indian guns and Indian powers and were firing indiscriminately on Kashmiris. What do we call them then? Are they not Indian? It was a ridiculous excuse for an equally ridiculous ban.
I remind the staff of Kashmir Reader that our mornings have been incomplete without the newspaper. Your newspaper has made us habitual of truthful readings and its absence was torturous. I quote a famous saying , “They buried us but they did not know that we were seeds”, I am sure by now government will have realised how big a mistake was it to have banned the newspaper.
Kashmir Reader was still in a transitive phase because it was introduced only few years back. But the ban ensured that every Kashmiri irrespective of his capability to comprehend English Language waited curiously on 28th December when the paper hit stands again. With bigger reader base come bigger responsibilities. I hope the editorial staff understands that now the situation will be different from pre-ban era. The paper will have to live up to reputation, or even add to it whatever is needed.
Understandably, there will be an increased surveillance by the authorities over the activities of the once banned newspaper, but I am sure it won’t deter their ‘unshackled’ spirit. Kashmir Reader has become more than just a newspaper, it has become a representation. I pray that the staff remains steadfast at this juncture and the times to come. More power to the pens and lenses that bring us closer to truth every day.
—The writer is a student of law.