India’s most prestigious journalism award will no longer judge in a separate category reporting from Jammu and Kashmir and other domestic conflict zones.
The annual Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, which includes categories like business and economic reporting, as well as the use of Hindi and regional languages, has eliminated its category in “Reporting from Conflict Areas Broadcast” which would have had entries from Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s northeastern states and the Maoist-insurgency-hit Chhattisgarh.
Anadolu Agency is currently waiting on a response from an official of the Ramnath Goenka Foundation, which hosts the awards, on the reasons behind its decision. This story will be updated once the reply comes.
However, Indian media watchdog Newslaundry reported that the foundation told it that “entries from these regions had been too low to sustain competition.” The last date for submitting an entry for the 2019 awards, which was announced on Thursday, is Oct. 9, 2020.
However, a few Kashmiri journalists who won the award in the past said the decision appears to have been spurred by last year’s constitutional changes India says would help psychologically integrate the region with the rest of the country. Pakistan has termed the changes an attempt to change the demography of the area.
India: Press award drops Kashmir as distinct category
Kashmiri award-holders say change due to government pressure, 2019 constitutional changes reason on Kashmir's status https://t.co/iuYvjvOStQ
— Islamuddin Sajid (@islamudinsajid) September 18, 2020
Riyaz Wani, a distinguished Kashmiri journalist who won the award in 2015, told Anadolu Agency: “Anything that projects Kashmir or any other place as distinct for any reason doesn’t go well with India’s ruling dispensation’s policies and ideology.”
“This decision is unfortunate. It happens at a time when some of the best journalism was produced in Kashmir,” he said. Another winner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Anadolu Agency the decision was “only one more example of the rising state pressure under which Indian media works.”
“Kashmir is being erased from many things. The majority of the Indian media have blacked out repression in Kashmir from their reportage. It’s sad. Many good stories about Kashmir featured in past Ramnath Goenka Awards,” he said.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India in parts and claimed by Pakistan in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China. Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan. According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk