01 September 2008 National kashmir: separatism

A Pariah's Profession

"We aren't heard," rue Kashmiri netas. Yet, they only hate scribes.
A Pariah's Profession
He may be nearing 80, but Syed Ali Shah Geelani is certainly having his second coming as an important leader of the current movement in Kashmir. His first words to the Outlook team: "Why have you come here? It’s pointless talking to Indian journalists. It’s a waste. They have their national interest and a Hindu point of view." Incidentally, this has been Geelani’s stand for a long time. But having made his point, he politely went on to discuss other matters.

He’s not just hard on Indians. Geelani has also added to the troubles of Kashmiri journalists, many of whom work for Indian channels and newspapers. As it is, scribes in Srinagar are lodged between a rock and a hard place. Many have been killed, some have survived bullet injuries, others had their limbs or homes blown up. At the very least, they have been beaten up by the Indian army or just received that threatening phone call from one or the other militant group or leader. It’s part of the job in Kashmir.

Now, Geelani has only made it worse for local journalists when he described them as "part of the Indian war machinery". NDTV’s Nazir Masoodi says that "some Hurriyat leaders have created a psychological atmosphere for the crowds to attack journalists." Several TV crews from channels like Aaj Tak and CNN-IBN have been roughed up and others been threatened since this movement began. The utterances of leaders like Geelani has also contributed to the hostility that any Indian can confront at the hands of a particularly enthusiastic protester. The majority of the people in the Valley are, however, friendly and simply want an opportunity to get their point of view across.

But it has become a Catch 22 situation. Kashmiris complain their cause is not presented or understood properly. Yet Kashmiri journalists working for Indian channels do not take OB vans to cover the large protests for fear of being attacked. As one veteran scribe puts it: "The conditions here are such that we write for one hour then explain for three hours. We also have to call up our publications in Delhi and request them not to distort our views as we face the music here—it’s often a bullet or a beating. You’re at the receiving end as a reporter."

Next Story : 'Kashmiris Not Necessarily For Pak'
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