The headline of this post is a little deceptive, since we haven’t visited Kashmir on this trip and are not planning to, except perhaps briefly on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control. But in Bombay I got a chance to revisit the situation of Kashmir, from the perspective of an Indian’s experience.
Kurien Abraham is a 31-year-old South Indian, a Christian, who works as a desk editor for the business TV channel UTVI. When he was 24 he was working for ANI, a service part-owned by Reuters that produces wire stories as well as shows for Doordarshan, India’s little-watched government-owned channel.
“I wasn’t prepared to go to Kashmir,” he told me. “I just walked into the office and they said, ‘Go.’ Because things were heating up. I didn’t know what to expect. I covered really bad encounters, and I thought it was too early in my career for me to see such things.”
Kurien spent five months in Kashmir in 2002, the first three weeks in Jammu, then in areas near the Line of Control.
“The problem was that I was sent there to get stories about good things that the army was doing,” he said. “The standard question you’re supposed to ask is, ‘Why is your life so miserable?’ And they’re supposed to answer that it’s because of Pakistan, because they’re shelling. But if you ask them honestly, they’ll say it’s because of both sides.
“You can’t go on like that. But I’ve learned that most of reporting is like that: you try to get them to say what you want them to say.” He says this apparently not in bitterness, but with a chuckle. “Kashmir shapes you in terms of what kind of journalist you want to become. You’re forced to say and do things that – either you want to say and do them because you want to get the story, or …”
“Would you be willing to speak candidly about it?” I asked him.
“Sure. As I said, it’s a free country.” He laughed. “But you’ve been to Kashmir?”
“It’s a strange place. You feel sorry for the army people, and you feel sorry for the Kashmiris. Most of them just want to go to war, to get it over with. Most of the army, they don’t know what they’re doing there. It’s a conscious effort to keep North Indians away from Kashmir. All the soldiers are from Southern battalions and from the Northeast. So they don’t know why they’re there. So they take it out on the people.”
I wrote this post on the train from Hyderabad to Delhi, where we arrived Thursday morning, and I've just now (Friday evening) been able to publish it. We had a fascinating 4-5 days in Hyderabad, which I’ll try to write about next. If possible, I’ll post twice more before leaving India – once each about Hyderabad and Delhi. I promise at least one photo with the next post.
The Alive and Well in Pakistan project provides independent reporting from and about Pakistan, humanizing Pakistanis for a global audience and giving Pakistanis worldwide an honest, sympathetic portrayal of their situation in the contemporary world that goes beyond the headlines and cliches, in film, print and other media such as short videos, still photography, and audio.