Media/Press Restrictions in Indian Kashmir, and Narendra Modi’s Brief History of Handling Criticism

by Abdul Hussain

Reports from the AFP have highlighted that Ghulam Jeelani Qadir, publisher and editor of the Indian Kashmir-based Urdu-language daily newspaper Afaaq has been arrested, and released a day later without reason, over a situation that was linked to a case from 1993 when he published a statement from an anti-India militant. Additionally, another reporter, Asif Sultan, has been in jail since August 2018 over a report about a rebel leader, was charged with having contact with and promoting militants, and Umer Arif, a freelance journalist, said that “We’re stopped miles away [in reference to covering violent protests]. No investigation by journalists is possible”, and “so, we show what the government forces want us to show, not much else”.

These replies are based on what Narendra Modi is reported to be doing in order to reduce press and journalistic freedom, especially in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir, such as:

  • Modi, and his party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) withdrawing support for its local partner and dissolved the elected local government, thus moving control of the territory to New Delhi, and;
  • Kneecapping advertisement support by withdrawing advertisements from two English-language daily newspaper outlets, Greater Kashmir, and Kashmir Reader, with editor-in-chief Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo stating that they’ve effectively “choked it”, the Committee to Protect Journalists, describing the move as a way “to silence criticism of its policies in Kashmir”, and Anuradha Bhasin, editor of Kashmir’s oldest English-language newspaper the Kashmir Times stating that “they want independent voices to go to oblivion”.

Responses like the aforementioned ones, when coupled with Narendra Modi’s past actions that became newsworthy such as him and his party implementing laws that will enable even more internet surveillance, and (social media) censorship, with reports in 2018 that journalists fearing intimidation and ostracization when criticising Modi and his administration, and ex-JNU Student Union office-bearers calling out Modi for using sedition laws to control dissent, alongside ex-Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde saying that Modi cannot handle dissent, and a Manipuri journalist branding Modi’s BJP minister “a Modi puppet” only to be detained because of criticism like this, makes Indian Kashmiri journalists’ scepticisms over how Narendra Modi would handle criticism, especially over how Modi and his party handles affairs over at Kashmir very understandable.

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