In the two main areas of conflict reporting in India: Kashmir and the North-East, plagued by insurgencies,
and the states affected by political extremism, many journalists have been targeted, maimed, or even assassinated or killed as a result of their ‘living’—journalism

Attacks on journalists are nothing new, whether they take place within or outside of crisis zones. A Thakur Family Foundation investigation found that between 2014 and 2019, there were at least 198 serious
attacks against reporters in India, of which 36 occurred in 2019. According to a survey released last year, 40
occurrences of journalist deaths occurred, 21 of which were related to their profession. But given the circumstances on the ground, the obstacles are far greater in Kashmir.

As recently as 2018, unidentified gunmen in Srinagar shot and killed Rising Kashmir’s Shujaat Bukhari. Photographer Kamran Yousuf stated last year that he was wounded close to an encounter site in the Pulwama district. Senior Kashmiri journalist Yusuf Jameel claims that after 1989, completely new difficulties arose for journalists in carrying out their work. He said, “Every day is becoming difficult for us, so many things are happening. Largescale killings have started taking place, and the whole thing [has] changed. Information accessibility has become zero, entry to many places is banned. Attempts to suppress information have started.

Jameel also recounts how in 1995, while working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Srinagar, he and two other men were attacked. He said,

“I didn’t fear for life as such but I have faced a number of allegations of glorifying militants, [and of] being their hand. I was called an Indian agent by the militant groups. I faced six attacks. In one of the attacks, which was a parcel bomb last in Srinagar office in 1995, I, along with another fellow journalist, was injured while the third succumbed.”

It has long been believed that the worst Indian state excesses are first attempted, tested, and polished in
Kashmir before being implemented elsewhere in the nation. The same holds true for political arrests. Following the Modi government’s decision to abrogate Article 370, more than 5,000 Kashmiris were detained. Politicians, attorneys, businesspeople, activists, and journalists were jailed in remote locations or confined under house
arrest throughout the valley.

In November 2021, noted human rights activist, Khurram Parvez, from Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a group based in Srinagar which publishes regular reports on the human rights violations
and excesses committed by security forces in the Valley, was arrested on accusations of “terror funding”. The
National Investigation Agency (NIA) took charge and he was arrested under the draconian anti-terrorism
law, making it impossible for him to get bail. Earlier this year, Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah was detained
under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) on the grounds that he had been “misguiding common masses by circulating fake news against the government and its policies.”

In the North-East, we observe a similar situation. The list of deceased journalists is extensive and includes
everyone from editors to lower-level reporters and camera operators. According to government data, there have been 32 deaths in Assam since 1987. Despite a clear connection to individuals in authority, none of these cases has seen a thorough investigation that resulted in the conviction of the accused.

Konsam Rishikanta, a sub-editor for the Imphal Free Press, was killed by unidentified assailants in 2008 in a
neighborhood of Imphal. Yambem Megha, a reporter for Vision North East, was shot and killed in 2002.
The Manipur News’ editor, a thenpopular English publication, was also killed in 2000. And many more unidentified cases could be added to this horrifyingly exhaustive list. Even after dangling between numerous situations of life and death, journalists in these states remain largely underpaid—from late commissions from the government to newspapers never paying the recommended wage. With media houses shutting down and their offices being sealed, there is only so much one can criticise about them.

While India drops to 150th place out of 180 nations on the World Press Freedom Index, even behind Palestine and Afghanistan, it wears the crown of “one of the most dangerous countries for media,” and according to research, a place “where journalists are vulnerable to all types of violence.” On a daily basis, those who defend free speech are either incarcerated or shot to death with metal. Furthermore, the administration remains mostly intent on denying the reality of the crisis it has created by fabricating the report’s “questionable methodology” in parliament.

Aayat Farooqui

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The conflict of the Jews and Arabs goes back many centuries. Jerusalem and Israel is a sacred place for not only Jews, but for Christians and Muslims also. Thus, this piece of land has been the reason for numerous conflicts and wars. These wars are still going on today, the only difference being that now it is not fought with swords, but waged mentally by starving the enemy of even the basic human rights like education.

Around 535 BCE, Abraham was hailed as the first Jew, and the father of Jewish people. It was at this time that Isaac, the Son of Abraham, was promised that he would inherit the land of Canaan, or the land which we today know as, Israel. Cut to the Middle Ages and we see that the crusades and repeated sieges on the holy city of Jerusalem (The most important city of Canaan and Judaism) left many Jews homeless and thus, they were forced to take refuge in other nations all over the world. The Jew community did face great difficulty during this time, but still managed to rise up and establish themselves as a powerful community with wealth and influence all over the world. 

Palestine History via Pinterest
Palestine History via Pinterest

Coming to the 1900s, we see the rise of Zionism, the movement which gained popularity during the time. The movement’s ideology stated that the only way to save the Jewish culture and Jewish people was the creation of a Jewish state in the holy land of Canaan, which then was an Ottoman province known as Palestine. Then the world witnessed two World Wars during which Jews were subjected to racial and even ethnic cleansing. This resulted in extensive inflow of Jews to the Palestine. It also resulted Ottoman Palestine becoming a battleground for the Jews and Arab Palestinians. There were several clashes between the Jews and the Arabs (who by then had started recognising themselves as a distinct ethnic identity, the Palestinians), seeing the tensions between the two communities, the newly formed United Nations came into action. It offered a Two-State Proposal which would divide the British Palestine (which they had captured from the Ottomans in the First World War) into two Nations, the state of Israel for Jews and the state of Palestine for the ethnic Arabs in the year 1947. The proposal was eagerly adopted by Israel, which declared its independence soon after. But the same was not the case for Palestine, as the Arabs thought of the solution as another attempt of Western imperialism. So, thus started a conflict of ideas, principles and most importantly religion, which we today know as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What followed this were two different wars between Israel and its Arab neighbours, in these wars Israel crushed the Arab alliance and pushed well past its 1947 UN designated borders, capturing all the erstwhile Palestine, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan heights and thus, during late 1970s started a mass unspoken and unofficial movement in which a large number of Israelis started shifting to occupied Palestinian territories of West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 

Visualising Palestine.
Visualising Palestine.

This movement, was in addition to politics,  religiously motivated, as the Jews there wanted to established themselves into these areas so that no international force would give these territories to Palestine. Also these territories and areas were religiously very important to Jews. Even though the United Nations, in its 1979 resolution not only condemned this migration, but also declared it illegal. However, the Israeli government did not do anything, instead subsidised these West Bank properties for Israeli citizens, and moreover sent the army for the security of such settlers.

The partition of West Bank as per the Oslo Accords II in 1995. Credits: Vox
The partition of West Bank as per the Oslo Accords II in 1995. Credits: Vox

This resulted in extensive violence and backlash from Palestinians in the face of the First and the Second Intifadas (the Uprising) in 1987 to 1993 and then from 2000 to 2005, respectively. This was followed by a distressing amount of deaths and displacement of the Palestinians, and then a string of peace talks which resulted in practically nothing. 

Even though the Second Intifada resulted in the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (but increasing its activities in West Bank), again it ultimately was a loss for the Palestinians as firstly there was a short civil war between PLO or Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Hamas, which resulted in a split of the unified leadership of Palestine.  Therefore the latter controlled West Bank and the post started controlling the Gaza Strip (Hamas has also been declared an international terrorist organisation by the US and Israel). It was followed by a strict Israeli blockade in Gaza which it justified as Israel claims Hamas to be a terrorist organisation; this gruelling blockade resulted the unemployment rate in Gaza to jump to a startling 40 per cent. 

Thus, today in West Bank we can see a huge void between Israeli and Palestinian neighbourhoods or settlements, on one hand we have highly developed Israeli settlements with scores of world class amenities, but on the other hand we see much worse of Palestinian settlements which lack many basic needs of survival. Apart from that, now Israelis are not just shifting into West Bank settlement for religious purposes, but due to the fact that it has become beneficial for them, as they get government subsidies and world class amenities in these areas. This movement has also been heavily sponsored by not only the Israeli Government but also various NGOs who get funding from the powerful Jewish communities around world.

All of this has resulted in a very pick-you-your-situation as it has become more and more difficult for any sustainable peace proposal to be formed. Due to this increasing number of Jewish population in the West Bank area, the community at the pinnacle of this conflict is the Palestinians’. Ask them how the peace talks work now living in a country wherein they are subjects but not citizens. Israel will never accept them and chances of their own independent state of Palestine are not great. So now they live with an internal question of whether they want their identities as a Palestinian to be saved, or they want a chance to live freely but as Jewish citizens of Israel.

“You can either be a Revolutionary or be a Caged Bird who had a chance to fly but it didn’t.”

– Abraham Lincoln
Feature Image Credits: Scopio

Aniket Singh Chauhan 

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Different films have been loved and hated over the years for different reason,s and by different people. What remains standing over the years is the debate over Movies versus Morality.

Movies are called a basic source of entertainment; couples watch Romantic-comedies for their movie dates, families enjoy Dramatic-comedies for their family outings, and a group of friends go out to watch their favourite fantasy franchise films that come out. An average middle-class family spends 200 bucks per ticket for plain and pure entertainment purpose, so in this scenario does morality even play a part?

How does it affect a cinemagoer that the film they are watching is regressive, politically or socially incorrect, and offensive to a section of people, misogynistic or plain problematic? The bitter truth is that it doesn’t. We go watch a comedy movie which uses derogatory slangs, laugh at these “jokes”, have a gala time and come back unaffected. Some films fat shame, some are insensitive towards the LGBTQ+ community, while some just do not evoke a sense of diversity, but they are still loved and famous. Old classics like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham or Pretty Woman are good examples of such films.

Even recent Bollywood Rom-coms or Dramedies like Lukka Chuppi or De De Pyaar De use derogatory slurs to invoke humour. Many found them funny, they did well on the box-office and the question remained the same, should these films be given the benefit of the doubt for the sake of humour?

The obvious answer is no, some might say otherwise, that comedy requires one to be free of judgement and in doing so,  they perpetuate societal stigmas. But anything that does not respect one’s identity is not funny, it is just problematic. I was six when my family went to watch Partner in the multiplex. It came out in 2007 and the experience was fun: the over-priced pop corn, large screen, the whole family together watching a funny movie. At the age of six I laughed at a grown male pretending to be a transgender to enter into a wedding as a wedding planner and this stereotypical representation engrained in my brain. The process of unlearning began early for me to understand that this representation is problematic but, for many this remains funny forever.

Unlike the popular notions, films like The Big Sick, Always Be My Maybe and Bareilly Ki Barfi prove that simpler narratives can also remain funny and distinct without depicting anything blatantly wrong. The former two get representation of diverse American population right, while the latter uses societal norms to critique the basics of our upbringing while remaining funny.

Many critics comment that not all films can have a moral base, the target audience matters along with the budgeting and production. All that remaining, I wonder why many cannot even try to put an effort to get the basics right. Yes, every film cannot be a Raazi, Piku or a Pink but the basics of being funny without hurting any sentiments, that is not a lot to achieve, specially when many shows, movies, and short films already have.

Feature Image Credits: IMDB

Sakshi Arora

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Read how romanticising the nuanced conflict of Kashmir negates the trauma of its ground-reality.

There is a thing about pedestals- they act as an ideal way of distancing oneself from the responsibility of the reality. If one puts anything at a pedestal by glorifying it, and the sentiment acquires a ripple effect, then the glorified entity remains a far-away dream in popular imagination, because it is now an ideal one can seldom aspire to reach, or to change. In the mindset of countless individuals around the globe, the Kashmir Valley is on such a pedestal.

When we think of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir as twenty-first century young adults, not directly involved in its reality, it is almost always through a lens of Bollywood’s aesthetic frames. There is no denying the natural endowment of the Valley when it comes to its aesthetics, but this imagination often serves as a method to deny the human endowment of war and trauma in its past, present, and foreseeable future.

The mainstream media does not help change anything for us. Mainstream news outlets that reach the masses away from the site of conflict are often restricted by their own reasons- commercial, political, and populist- to present a Kashmir wronged by ‘the other’ (Pakistan, terrorists, violent militants) to us. What is activated in the Valley from the Indian end is either not revealed entirely, or is looked at as a retaliation on provocation. Movies exploit this narrative, supplying the masses often with an image of a tragically beautiful Kashmir Valley in violation by the enemy, while India is a saviour filled with good people and their great intentions. The narrative is of a damsel in distress.

As citizens of a time where the political scenario is largely based on turmoil and maligning the ‘other’, we take in the popular narratives and romanticise the tragedy further in our imagination. From the kind of literature we, as non-Kashmiris, read from and about the Valley, to the kind of films that are released about it, the utter grit of the conflict is almost always negated. Poetry and art are the media for numerous children of war to accept conflict as a part of their identity, and the richness of their verses and portrayals is often our entire worldview of a region in war with itself, and with the occupiers. The authority with which we then perpetrate the nuances of the issue on social media, and in our circles, reeks of a diaspora authority- distant, different, and sometimes indifferent to reality.

The Washington Post referred to 2018 as “the deadliest year in a decade in Kashmir” with over 400 reported deaths. In November 2018, a 20-month-old baby became the youngest victim of stone-pelting and lost her eyesight. Kashmir Valley is a region where violent conflicts can be listed by months. The grit of the violence is not a sonnet of beautiful sadness, but it is as real as a time-bomb that keeps ticking and killing at once. Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, and many experts state that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a western concept as American soldiers return to normalcy after war, but the war never ends for those who are born in and then die in conflict-zones. For them, she explains, the fear of bombardment is not imaginary but justified; there’s no ‘post-trauma’.

We need to stop beautifying the horror in our imagination, and our expression, by becoming more than a distant onlooker. Films like Inshallah Football, No Fathers in Kashmir et al receive adult certification from CBFC, because of the authenticity of their conflict-portrayal. The least we can do as privileged citizens is seeking news, criticising cinema, and analysing our own understanding of the conflict in all its violent, political, traumatising manifestations, instead of remembering it merely as the land where pain breeds beauty for the outsider’s pleasure.

Feature Image Credits: NewsGram

Anushree Joshi

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