3 Indian photojournalists from Jammu and Kashmir win Pulitzer Prize
Three Indian photojournalists based in Jammu & Kashmir won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their coverage of the region during the clampdown that followed the Union government’s decision last August to divest the region of its special status and reorganise it into two Union Territories.
The achievement of Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand of the Associated Press (AP) in winning the most prestigious award in American journalism was acclaimed in J&K. Yasin and Khan are based in the Kashmir valley and Anand in Jammu.
“It’s not the story of the people I am shooting only, but it’s my story,” Yasin told AP. “It’s a great honour to be in the list of Pulitzer winners and to share my story with the world.” Anand said the award left him speechless. “I was shocked and could not believe it,” he said.
The Pulitzer Prizes -- established in 1917 through the will of publisher Joseph Pulitzer -- were announced virtually late on Monday due to the coronavirus disease outbreak.
On August 5, Parliament revoked the special status granted to the state of Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, and passed provisions dividing the state into two Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh. The moves were accompanied by a clampdown in the region by the Union government, a communications blockade of the region, and the protective arrest of several politicians.
The clampdown made it especially hard for journalists and photographers to work and get their reports and pictures through for publication by their organisations.
AP says that the three photojournalists, snaking around roadblocks, sometimes took cover in strangers’ homes and hid cameras in vegetable bags. They captured images of protests, police and paramilitary action and daily life — and then headed to the airport to persuade travellers to carry the photo files in memory cards and flash drives and get them to the AP’s office in New Delhi.
“It was always cat-and-mouse,” Yasin said. “It was very hard,” Khan told the agency, but “we managed to file pictures.”
The Pulitzer Prize news led to the trio being swamped by congratulatory messages.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations to Indian photojournalists Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand for winning a Pulitzer Prize for their powerful images of life in Jammu & Kashmir. You make us all proud.”
However, the award created a controversy with the citation referring to Kashmir, part of Indian Union Territory Jammu & Kashmir, as “contested territory”. Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson took to Twitter to ask why the journalists accepted the award and whether Gandhi concurred with the citation.
“It’s been a difficult year for journalists in Kashmir & that’s saying something considering the last 30 years haven’t exactly been easy. Congratulations to @daryasin, @muukhtark_khan & @channiap on this prestigious award. More power to your cameras,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter.
The Kashmir Press Club said the award of the Pulitzer Prize to the photojournalists marked a reiteration that independent journalism and free press are more important than ever in these times, when journalists have been working in tough conditions.
“This Pulitzer to the three photojournalists from J&K is an incredible honour and also a proud and big moment for all the media fraternity in J&K as the journalists in the region have always worked in toughest circumstances, risked their lives and always tried to deliver in a rational and objective manner,” it said.
Journalists in the Valley called it a watershed moment.
“A Pulitzer, probably for the first time awarded to Kashmiri photojournalists, is a huge honour and a watershed moment in the history of Kashmir. And a global recognition of the stellar work produced by Kashmir’s journalists, especially photojournalists, who go out there everyday despite all the risks, working in difficult conditions, documenting the ground realities, writing the first draft of history,” said senior journalist Majod Maqbool.