After the on-going crisis started early last month, this is the fifth issue that is in your hands. The irregularity with which we are printing and reduced number of pages might have surprised you, given the fact that we were the first to bounce back after September 2014 floods. Even in 2010 crisis, we didn’t exhibit such an irregularity barring the fortnight when the publications were informally suspended.
For the last six weeks, Kashmir is witnessing an overwhelming situation. As an institution, linked with the society so-closely, media is the first to be impacted.
In the on-going crisis, media remained entangled with two major issues that crop up almost on daily basis.
First is to help media survive as a recorder of contemporary history. This fundamental responsibility is always in threat when the governance structure starts believing they could manage streets better if media is not around.
Initially, the government banned the publications and it continued for almost a week. After it was successfully fought, the publications restored, the government availed other levers to achieve the same objective. It started with blocking the cell phone thus starting the information blockade. Then, it withdrew bandwidth, almost selectively, thus impacting the routine news gathering and transmission. This letter that you are going through was written and then dictated to the news desk on phone! For almost five days, most of the websites were in to literal bandwidth begging. Kashmir Life website, the major source of news on Kashmir, was running without any update for two days. That is quite unimaginable in developed world.
Now the latest crisis that every publisher is facing is how to manage movement of staff during curfew hours despite having valid curfew passes. Government’s one arm disregarding the procedures set by the other arm is routine practice of managing a common target, especially in Kashmir.
Secondly, the issues are linked to the street and the market. Scores of reporters were marshalled by the mobs and the cops on streets, and in the hospitals in last more than one month thus hampering news gathering. The situation on the street, at the same time, was so grave that our one staffer could take only one month in reaching Srinagar from Kupwara. In fact, at least two others have last attended the office before Eid-ul-Fitr. The situation is so harsh on the streets that, as a matter of policy, publishers prefer keeping the newspapers running with their minimum staff.
The other side of the story is that of market. During the crisis, the Kashmir society exhibits a great appetite for news but the market closures dries up resources to sustain the same. Media, everywhere, is directly linked to the markets. When markets are closed, it has serious impact.
All these issues put together, all publishers in Kashmir are trying to keep the show going within restrictions that situation enforces. That is exactly what we at Kashmir Life are doing. Every time, a newspaper gets in to the printing press, nobody is sure whether the print order will make to the market or not. There are countless instances in which distribution of newspapers was interrupted on ground.
These are trying circumstances for the entire society. We believe readers understand it and will bear with us till Kashmir bounces back to normal.