India lifts ban on printing Kashmir newspapers amid unrest


Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir lifted a three-day ban on the publication of newspapers imposed during massive anti-India protests that left dozens of people dead and hundreds injured, and editors said they will decide together whether to resume publication later Tuesday.

“Government conveyed to us that it was a mistake. But we will require their reassurances about safety of our workers, reporters and printing presses,” Masood Hussain, a senior journalist and editor of English weekly Kashmir Life, said. Editors had denounced the ban as “gagging and enforcing emergency on media.”

The largest street protests in recent years in the disputed region erupted more than a week ago after Indian troops killed a popular young rebel leader.

State government spokesman and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar said when the ban was imposed Friday that it was aimed at “saving lives and strengthening peace efforts”.

Police raided newspaper offices, detained printing press workers and seized tens of thousands of local newspapers. In addition to the printing ban, cellular and internet services were absent and landline phone access limited, except in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar.

The information void was fuelling a cycle of rumours in the restive region.

The protests, marked by clashes between rock-throwing Kashmiris and troops firing live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas, persisted despite a strict curfew in place for the eleventh straight day Tuesday. Streets were mostly deserted otherwise, and with shops still closed, people were trying to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities.

The latest fatality was reported on Tuesday after a woman injured in Indian army firing overnight died in a hospital in Srinagar, a police officer said.

Two people, including a woman, were killed in the clash late Monday after soldiers fired at rock-throwing protesters in southern Qazigund area, said the officer speaking on a customary condition of anonymity.

The clashes have killed at least 46 people, mostly teens and young men, and a policeman since July 9. Nearly 2,000 civilians and about 1,600 government troops have been injured.

Separatist leaders have extended their strike call until Thursday afternoon followed by a shutdown and protests on Friday. The key leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, in a statement late Monday said Indian leaders were “blinded by their own propaganda … to the extent that (they’re) unable to understand and accept the genuineness of people’s anger and self-drive for freedom and justice.”

Meanwhile, the state government’s political adviser, Amitabh Mattoo, said the decision to temporarily ban newspaper publication was imposed without the knowledge of the state’s top elected official, Mehbooba Mufti.

“Sometimes decisions taken at a local level is not something the highest authority approves of. There was some miscommunication,” he said. “We need to know who took the decision on the ban. We will take action once the crisis is over,” he told New Delhi-based NDTV news channel late Monday.

Since 1989, more than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising against Indian rule and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.