National

Letter From The Editor

It is an irony that the first issue of Outlook which was on Kashmir came out from this building. This isn’t its last issue

Letter From The Editor
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In 1995, Outlook’s first issue came out. It was a survey done in Kashmir about what people wanted then. A lot of time has passed since. Kashmir is now a Union Territory. Article 370, a temporary provision in the Indian Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), was abrogated in 2019. The Union Home Minister, in an interview to a television channel, recently said the record voter turnout in the general elections is a sign that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Kashmir policy has been a success.

Modi promised to build a ‘Naya Kashmir’. The old Ghanta Ghar (clock tower) at Lal Chowk was renovated in 2023. A memorial park is being built in the vicinity. There’s even a hotel called Naya Kashmir in Lal Chowk. There are no more protests. No more cases of stone pelting. No more expression of any dissatisfaction.

There are still concertina wires and bunkers and security personnel with their guns. Ahead of the polling in the three constituencies—Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag-Rajouri—voters in the Valley spoke about the loss of identity and dignity. They spoke about unemployment and their concerns over land as they fear a demographic change in the aftermath of the abrogation. Political leaders and candidates from regional parties in Kashmir in their public rallies spoke about the abrogation and said if voted to power, they would take up the issue of political rights again. Though it didn’t contest from Kashmir, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) across India made doing away with Article 370 one of its main talking points—the integration of Kashmir was now complete, the politics of appeasement had ended.

In Kashmir, we bore witness to the silence. We heard the poets recite their anguish in verses. We saw the artists paint their fears on canvas. There is Naya Kashmir and there is that other Kashmir lurking in the shadows. People in Kashmir said the gunshots are no longer keeping them awake in the nights. No more children and young boys are getting killed. That’s good and the rest of it is their fate to be borne in silence. “We were never asked what we wanted,” a poet said.

In his first ‘Letter from the Editor’, the late Vinod Mehta wrote that the magazine had arrived at a time when the Indian print media was under siege. It is true today. Television is a powerful medium which continues to have the blessings of those in power.

This is my first letter in my two-and-a-half years here. Outlook has seen tough times. Our office building in Safdarjung Enclave is being vacated because of structural damage at the moment. But the old cabin is still there. For 29 years, Outlook’s team gathered in that old delightful building with its old chairs and old walls to bring out issues with the notion that citizens of this country are not victims and Outlook’s mandate is to talk to them about vital issues.

This is the year of general elections. We sent out reporters across the country to see and to write, to hear and to bear witness. It is an irony that the first issue of Outlook which was on Kashmir came out from this building. This isn’t its last issue. Only the last one to come out of that old building where a friendly neighbourhood dog always kept guard at night. The dog wore a jacket with ‘love’ written on it during the winters. There’s so much to remember about the place.

It was a courageous place. You would see the framed covers of Outlook over the years and feel proud that you are here and doing what you must. The Silence of Kashmir is that issue.

(This appeared in the print as 'Letter From The Editor')

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