Srinagar: Residents of Tosmaidan and its adjoining areas in Budgam district on Tuesday held protest against the comments made by Indian journalist Prem Shankar Jha about the issue of lease of Tosmaidan meadow to the army.
Eyewitnesses said scores of people gathered under the banner of Tosmaidan Bachoa Front (TBF) and J&K RTI Movement, the civil society groups campaigning against the extension of land lease to the army, at Press Enclave here and protested against Jha’s comments.
“’The author has mentioned in clear terms that his visit was arranged by the army in the hope that someone would report their side of the story,”’ said Moulvi Maqbool, vice-chairman TMBF.
“’What actually happens is when people like Jha come to Kashmir in order to escape from the scorching heat, they find refuge in the army camps…Jha has given them (army) space through his rambling piece,”’ Maqbool added.
Mansoor Ahmad, a Sarpanch of Drung village said the “misleading” article by Jha has mentioned the Sarpanch of Drung twice without quoting his name.
“I am the Sarpanch of Drung, and of course a founder member of TBF. I haven’t met any person by this name. What is he (Jha) playing at?” said Mansoor.
Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, chairman, J&K RTI Movement, also condemned Jha’s article published in the Tehelka magazine.
“Prem Shankar Jha has very cleverly concocted one side of the story to suit his interests, but that’s not how journalism works. Has he spoken to the 43 widows who beg for a blanket, a torn sweater, and some leftovers for their children? Has he interacted with the 94 orphans who don’t know what it’s like to have a father,” asked Dr Sheikh.
Farooq Kuthoo, spokesperson, J&K RTI Movement, said they condemn the “belittling remarks of Jha towards the media fraternity of Kashmir. It’s because of our journalists that the world has become aware of the issues in Kashmir.”
The protesters said that apparently the status of the Tosmaidan firing range lease agreement which expired on April 18 has not been made public by the government.
“We demand that a notification stating that the lease has been terminated be issued by the government,” they said.