A group of civil rights activists, which recently returned from the Kashmir Valley after a five-day visit to ascertain the ground situation in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370, was, on Wednesday, disallowed by the Press Club of India from showing the video footage and photographs from the state.
The "fact-finding" team comprising Jean Dreze, Maimoona Mollah, Kavita Krishnan and Vimal Bhai was scheduled to address a press conference at New Delhi’s Press Club where they planned to release video footage of how Kashmiris had reacted to the Narendra Modi government’s decision to scrap the special status of J&K.
Besides video, the team had also put together a 10-minute documentary encapsulating the prevailing situation in the Valley and had brought photographs shot in and around Srinagar as evidence of the heavy security clampdown in the region.
However, none of this video and photographic evidence was allowed to be displayed by the Press Club of India's managing committee -- an elected body comprising journalists from across the media industry.
It is learnt that the rights activists were told by a Press Club office-bearer working for a prominent English daily that the club’s managing committee could not allow the screening of the video footage.
The activists were, however, allowed to address the press and speak of their experience during their five-day stay in the Valley. “I do not wish to attribute any motives or make any personal comments against individual office bearers of the Press Club but I can confirm that we were told that we cannot show the videos and photographs because there was a lot of pressure from the government,” CPI (ML) member Kavita Krishnan told Outlook.
Later, Kavita took to Twitter and shared the link to the short film the team wanted to screen at the Press Club.
Watch the short film - Kashmir Caged - based on footage we collected in Kashmir here. Press Club of India wouldn't let us show it on their premises. But do watch and share. https://t.co/93Ir9un5k3— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) August 14, 2019
It is pertinent to note that since August 5, when the Modi government severely diluted Article 370 through a Constitution Order signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, a large number of foreign media houses and some Indian counterparts have put out videos and photographs shot in the Valley which show the region veiled under an unprecedented security clampdown.
Footage of protesting mobs being dispersed by security personnel through the use of pellet guns has also made its way to social media. In stark contrast, some media houses have portrayed the situation in Kashmir to be "calm and normal".
Given the continuing clampdown in Kashmir and a near-complete blockade on communication, internet, television and newspapers in the region, little by way of information about the goings-on is trickling out of the strife town Valley.
Members of the Press Club managing committee refused to comment when asked why the fact-finding team was denied permission to screen the video evidence they had gathered.