To preempt mass protests against its dismantling of Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy, the Indian government put the Valley under a security lockdown and communications blackout. The lockdown, in place for over a month and a half now, has been so severe that even journalists have been finding it difficult to do their work.
Not that it was easy to report from Kashmir before. Since the armed insurgency broke out in 1989, journalists covering the region have often had to negotiate tricky situations.
In this series, “Reporting from Kashmir, 1989 to 1994”, Madhu Trehan and her former Newstrack colleagues Manoj Raghuvanshi and Alpana Kishore recount their time reporting from Kashmir, and what they learned from their experiences.
Alpana remembers covering the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ekta Yatra, or Unity March, to Srinagar in 1992. It turned out to be a farce, dogged by contradictory statements from BJP leaders, including Murli Manohar Joshi, then the party’s president, and Narendra Modi, a key organiser of the yatra. They claimed theirs would be a massive march, that they would not ask for security cover, that they would conclude the march by unfurling the Indian flag in Srinagar “in a celebratory manner with Kashmiris”. None of this came to pass.
The flag was unfurled amidst a massive security cover and strict curfew. There was, of course, no celebration as the BJP leaders hurried back as soon as the flag was up. “In 13 minutes it was all over,” Alpana recalls.
She remembers asking in her report, “What advice does the BJP president have to give to enthusiastic party workers and loyal supporters who were unceremoniously ditched at the last minute?”
Alpana also recalls reporting on the abduction of some Kashmiri Pandits by the militants. She talks about the vulnerability of such hostages and the practice of exchange and negotiation between the militants and security officials.
Stay tuned for the third part of this series.
Also watch: The first part of the series.