Hiding Cameras in Vegetable Bags: How Pulitzer-Winning Photographers Told Us the Truth About Kashmir


Hiding Cameras in Vegetable Bags: How Pulitzer-Winning Photographers Told Us the Truth About Kashmir

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The last 10 months have been difficult for Jammu and Kashmir and its people. The territory was put under a harsh lockdown — along with an internet blockade — long before the coronavirus.

Images from the Himalayan state, that cast a light onto the struggle of everyday Kashmiris after the Centre abrogated J&K’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution, have haunted social media timelines since last August. Today, three photographers – Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand – who brought “striking images of life” from the state were honoured with the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in journalism, in feature photography.

Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand, who work with the Associated Press, were felicitated for the way they captured protests, police, and paramilitary action and life in the state. “Snaking around roadblocks, sometimes taking cover in strangers’ homes and hiding cameras in vegetable bags… then headed to an airport to persuade travellers to carry the photo files out with them and get them to the AP’s office in New Delhi,” the news agency described the hurdles of reporting in a statement.

The award-winning pictures have been widely shared on social media.

Some of the images are accompanied by heartbreaking stories. A report reveals one of these behind-the-camera moments that features 43-year-old photographer Dar Yasin.

During one of his assignments, Yasin noticed a girl named Khushboo was bleeding from the head, after she was hit by a stone. Already facing a hostile mob, and heavy police presence, he tossed his camera aside and rushed her to the hospital.

A picture taken by another journalist of Yasin carrying Khushboo on the streets of Srinagar has also been going viral, highlighting the difficulty associated with the job.

Meanwhile, the award was announced (online, of course) barely a week after two journalists from the state were arrested under the Unlawful Activities Protection Act — a controversial move that has prompted a strong statement by the Editors’ Guild. The voices from the Valley continue to be muffled but the Pulitzer is proof that the truth about Kashmir cannot be hidden.

The award has been significant for reminding us of the stark reality in Jammu and Kashmir, a state most Indians are very proud to call their own, but rarely ever think about.

As the president of the Associated Press, Gary Pruitt, said: “Thanks to the team inside Kashmir, the world was able to witness a dramatic escalation of the long struggle over the region’s independence. Their work was important and superb.”