Late last night – with utter shock, I received the news of banning of Kashmir Reader newspaper from a close friend who works as a reporter at the same newspaper. He was disgruntled and sad. With the banning of a well respected newspaper, the government in Kashmir has shown to what extent it can go to crackdown on people’s voice. Kashmir Reader represented a robust image of a people’s voice talking back to power in a searing and critical manner through its bold editorials and reports; which often always questioned, and rightly so – the narratives constructed by the ruling establishment over Kashmir. Its editorials delineated for the common man how these narratives support the structure that’s killing and maiming and blinding Kashmiris for the last nearly three months. No wonder, that it’s the same structure which has found the voice of this newspaper dangerous for its spin-doctory and has effectively exercised its force to shut this voice down.
Shutting down of Kashmir Reader should not be read in isolation to what’s happening in Kashmir for the last three months. The repression exists on the word too; on language and articulation also. Journalism, by its logic is a profession which is at the forefront of where language emanates from. By banning the publication of a newspaper, the state wants to ban language itself – the language which challenges its unbridled power and the sheer impunity with which that power is exercised. Kashmir Reader, as we know it, was doing just that – questioning the barbarity of the state which has unleashed terror on Kashmiri streets, playgrounds and homes and now on paper too.
Kashmir Reader is a newspaper loved by the people on the street; it’s respected for its pro-people coverage especially during the last three months. It’s boldness in covering current anti-India uprising despite government’s decision to not allocate advertisements to it is reflective of its commitment to report and document the siege Kashmir is experiencing. Sadly, the siege has extended to the newspaper too. The siege is not only on the newspaper; it’s on the collective intelligence of those who take to language to express their voice and discontent with the scheme of things in Kashmir. When a voice like Kashmir Reader is banned, it doesn’t become too difficult to see that the government wants to extend the current crackdown to such limits that no one is left to speak for Kashmir. Is such an order of things possible for the government to achieve? Fortunately, Kashmir has emerged from the darkness of nineties when its stories lay buried in snow to a time when every single Kashmiri, born and brought up in the last two decades – has become a storyteller of pain, suffering and resilience.
Kashmir Reader represents one such example of this ability to articulate one’s freedom amidst dehumanising violence. Walter Benjamin has said that language is the anti-dote of violence and it’s this language, represented by Kashmir Reader, which is at assault in Kashmir. As someone who has worked with the newspaper, I am certain that Kashmir Reader cannot be muzzled. It will reclaim its language back from the clutches of censorship and speak back truthfully on its committed subject – Kashmir.