A virtual protest was organized on Monday, April 27 to raise voices for journalists being harassed in India-occupied Kashmir.

Attended by South Asian journalists and community activists from various parts of the globe, the rally was remotely held in North Delta in the light of the public health emergency because of COVID 19.

The speakers unanimously condemned the slapping of criminal charges against several journalists in Kashmir, which they believe is an attempt to suppress press freedom and any voice of dissent under a right wing Hindu nationalist government. They also felt that it was part of a smear campaign of the Indian state to terrorise and demonize minorities and any right thinking journalist or scholar who questions the power.

Kashmir, the only Muslim dominated province in India, remains under lockdown since August 5. Special rights given to the state were scrapped and military has been heavily deployed in the name of national security to contain an ongoing struggle for the right to self-determination in the region. Not only have political activists been indefinitely detained, but journalists in Kashmir are finding it difficult to work freely and fearlessly. If that was not enough, at least three Kashmiri journalists, including female photographer Masrat Zahra, were recently charged under draconian laws after being accused of spreading “anti-national” propaganda. Gowhar Geelani, another prominent journalist and a published author is among the three.

The rally was held by Radical Desi, an online publication that covers alternative politics in partnership with Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI).

Among the participants was the President of the Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia (PPCBC), Navjot Kaur Dhillon. She is the first female president of the club which has been consistently raising the issue of Kashmiri journalists since last summer.

Dhillon pointed out that the Indian authorities are going after Kashmiri Muslim journalists and doing nothing against right wing media commentators who are openly spewing venom against minorities.

Others who spoke on the occasion were the Editor of Chardikala Newspaper, Gurpreet Singh Sahota, and Punjabi Tribune editor Dr. Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal. Both are associated with the PPCBC.

The rally was started with a poem dedicated to the late Gauri Lankesh by Amrit Diwana. Lankesh was a journalist who was murdered by Hindu fanatics in 2017. She was a vocal critic of religious extremism.

Two social justice activists from India, Buta Singh and Satwant Singh, joined the rally online and threw light on the overall situation that exists in India under an “intolerant regime”.

IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, and other members of the group Sandip Modgil and Gurpreet Singh also spoke on the occasion.

The participants raised slogans and held out signs in support of Kashmiri journalists.


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