New Delhi: Photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand, based in Jammu and Kashmir, have been awarded this year’s prestigious Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. The Pulitzer citation said the award was for “striking images of life” by the photographers in what it called “the contested territory of Kashmir” in the aftermath of the August 5, 2019 revocation of its special constitutional status, “executed through a communications blackout.”
— The Pulitzer Prizes (@PulitzerPrizes) May 4, 2020
Yasin and Khan are based in Srinagar while Anand is based in Jammu. All three work with the Associated Press, a news agency. AP executive editor Sally Buzbee said that the Kashmir prize was “a testament to the skill, bravery, ingenuity and teamwork of Dar, Mukhtar, Channi and their colleagues”.
All three have expressed joy and said that they never expected the prize. “Though I knew that there’s a Pulitzer Prize, I never dreamt that one day I would be honoured with it. I am speechless,” Anand told Hindustan Times.
“I would just like to say thank you for standing by us always. It’s an honour and a privilege beyond any we could have ever imagined. It’s overwhelming to receive this honor,” Yasin said on Twitter.
“Dear colleagues and friends I just want to say Thank you and that this award Pulitzer Prizes an honor for us. I could never have imagine in my life time,” Khan said.
Explaining the difficulty of reporting through the shut down of the valley and the communications blockade, AP wrote, “AP journalists had to find out about protests and other news by finding them in person. Khan and Yasin took turns roving the streets in and around the regional capital of Srinagar, Yasin said, facing mistrust from both protesters and troops. The journalists were unable for days to go home or even let their families know they were OK.”
.@AP photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand have been awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in feature photography for extraordinary photojournalism of the crisis and military lockdown in Indian-controlled Kashmir. https://t.co/wl5BwZdCvP
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 4, 2020
Due to the communications blackout, it was virtually impossible for the photographers to upload their pictures from the valley. Yasin told AP that he would attempt to spot people travelling out from the Srinagar airport and ask them to serve as couriers. This he said reminded him of the 1990s – when militancy was at its peak – and he would ask his relatives travelling to Delhi to deliver films to his office.
Yasin also said that the award feels particularly special as his work also carries a personal meaning. “It’s not the story of the people I am shooting, only, but it’s my story. It’s a great honor to be in the list of Pulitzer winners and to share my story with the world,” he told AP.
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
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.
Two other Indian photographers – Anushree Fadnavis and Adnan Abidi – also won the Pulitzer for breaking news photography as part of the photography staff of Reuters which was awarded for its coverage of the Hong Kong protests last year.
“It’s very humbling and overwhelming to be a part of the team that won the award. The feeling hasn’t sunk in yet,” Fadnavis told the Indian Express.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these fearless journalists. The protests in Hong Kong served as a defining moment of 2019 and across both of these nominations, covered the story from all angles and delivered trusted and reliable journalism to inform our customers and readers,” Reuters president Michael Friedenberg said.