Three Indian photojournalists based in Jammu & Kashmir won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their coverage of the region during the clampdown that followed the Union government’s decision last August to divest the region of its special status and reorganise it into two Union Territories.

Associated Press photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan, and Channi Anand have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, generally regarded as the highest honour that United States-based journalists and organisations can receive. Yasin and Khan are based in Srinagar, while Anand is based in Jammu district.

The prize winners were announced virtually on May 4, Monday owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement on their website following the announcement, Pulitzer said the Kashmiri photographers were selected for their “striking images of life” in the disputed Himalayan territory.

Six-year-old Muneefa Nazir, a Kashmiri girl whose right eye was hit by a marble ball allegedly shot by Indian soldiers on August 12, 2019 [Mukhtar Khan/AP]

“This honor continues AP’s great tradition of award-winning photography,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt. “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.”

“..,these photographers made remarkable, stunning images despite dangerous and challenging conditions, sometimes at great personal risk,” said AP Director of Photography David Ake.

“Their dedication to getting up every morning and going out to tell the story is a testament to their tenacity. The result of their work is compelling photojournalism that grabbed the world’s attention.”

AP’s Press photographers Mukhtar Khan, Dar Yasin and Channi Anand won The Pulitzer Prizes.

On August 5, 2019, it may be recalled Parliament revoked the decades-old special status granted to the state of Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, and passed provisions dividing the state into two Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh.

The moves were accompanied by a clampdown in the region by the Union government, a communications blockade of the region, and the protective arrest of several politicians. The curfew lasted for weeks and the internet shutdown ended up being the one of the longest in any democracy.

The clampdown, when all lines of communications were snapped, made it especially hard for journalists and photographers to work and get their reports and pictures through for publication by their organisations.

Pulitzer board administrator Dana Canedy declared the winners from her living room via a livestream on YouTube rather than at a ceremony at New York’s Columbia University.

The AP’s president and CEO Gary Pruitt said their work was “important and superb”.

India poured more troops into the already heavily militarised area, imposed a months-long curfew and harsh curbs on civil rights, and cut off internet, mobile phone, landline and cable TV services.

 One of the images, taken in J&K in August 2019, of the series which won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography (AP Photo )

Snaking around roadblocks, sometimes taking cover in strangers’ homes and hiding cameras in vegetable bags, the three photographers captured images of protests, police and paramilitary action and daily life.

They then headed to the local airport to persuade travellers to carry the photo files out with them and get them to the AP’s office in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said the award is “a testament to the skill, bravery, ingenuity and teamwork of Dar, Mukhtar, Channi and their colleagues”, adding that the journalists’ compelling storytelling shows people the absolute best of what the news organisation does.

“It was always cat-and-mouse,” Yasin recalled on Monday in an email. “These things made us more determined than ever to never be silenced.” “It’s not the story of the people I am shooting only, but it’s my story,” Yasin told AP.

“It’s a great honour to be in the list of Pulitzer winners and to share my story with the world.” Anand said the award left him speechless. “I was shocked and could not believe it,” he said.

Anand said the award left him speechless. “I was shocked and could not believe it,” he said.

A masked Kashmiri protester jumps on the bonnet of an armoured vehicle of Indian police as he throws stones at it during a protest in Srinagar [Dar Yasin/AP]

Last month, several leading Kashmiri journalists were charged by the Indian police under stringent laws for their “anti-national” social media posts – a move slammed by press and rights groups from around the world.

The achievement of Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand of the Associated Press (AP) in winning the most prestigious award in American journalism was acclaimed in J&K.

The Pulitzer Prizes — established in 1917 through the will of publisher Joseph Pulitzer — were announced virtually late on Monday due to the coronavirus disease outbreak.

The Pulitzer Prize news led to the trio being swamped by congratulatory messages.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has congratulated the award winners. “It’s been a difficult year for journalists in Kashmir & that’s saying something considering the last 30 years haven’t exactly been easy. Congratulations to @daryasin, @muukhtark_khan & @channiap on this prestigious award. More power to your cameras,” he said in a tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations to Indian photojournalists Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand for winning a Pulitzer Prize for their powerful images of life in Jammu & Kashmir. You make us all proud.”

Kashmiri Muslim devotees offer prayer outside the shrine in Srinagar, Dec. 9, 2019. Hundreds  gathered for the 11-day The image was part of a series which won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize.

Iltija Mufti, daughter of PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti who continues to be in house arrest, tweeted from her mother’s account. “Congratulations @daryasin @muukhtark_khan for your exemplary photography capturing the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir post illegal abrogation of Article 370. Bizarre that our journalists win accolades abroad but are punished under draconian laws on home turf,” she said.

Muslims offer Friday prayers on a street outside a local mosque during curfew like restrictions in Srinagar, India, Aug. 16, 2019. Part of the series that won the prize. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

Dar Yasin, who was born in 1973 in Kashmir, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and technology. Dar has extensively covered the Kashmiri conflict, as well as many global events such as the Afghan conflict, the South Asia earthquake and the historic opening of a bus route between Pakistan and India in Kashmir.

Dar has won dozens of international and national photo awards, in contests such as NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism, POYi and Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar. He received one of India’s Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards twice for the stories from Kashmir. Additionally, he’s been recognized by the National Headliner Awards, and by the Society of Professional Journalism with the Sigma Delta Chi Award. Dar also was part of The Associated Press team that won the Hal Boyle Award for the Rohingya exodus from the Overseas Press Club and a Robert F. Kennedy Award in the Print — International category.

A Kashmiri boy tries to take out a bullet from the wall of a damaged house after a gunbattle in Tral, May 24/19. which won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.@daryasin #Kashmir

“It was always cat-and-mouse,” Yasin said. “These things made us more determined than ever to never be silenced.”


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