By Souzeina Mushtaq

During a recent encounter with a prominent Indian photojournalist in Delhi, who, upon learning about my Kashmiri identity, eagerly declared, “Development is making its way in Kashmir.” I listened, patiently waiting for her to finish as she shared that one of her friends working for an NGO in Kashmir had told her so. 

“Kashmiri people want jobs and education, and now they are finally getting them,” she continued, eventually asking for my thoughts. I looked her dead in the eye and asked if she had ever heard of the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali. She nodded yes, and I quoted from one of his poems— “They make a desolation and call it peace.”

Since August 5, 2019, when the Indian government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and autonomy by abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A, there has been a notable increase in surveillance and a clampdown on press freedom in Kashmir, and hence, enforced silence, echoing themes from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. Orwell’s work, which explores totalitarianism, propaganda, and the suppression of dissent, provides a framework to understand the implications of these measures on journalism and freedom of expression in Kashmir.

Big Brother is Watching

In 1984, Orwell introduced the concept of “Big Brother,” a figurehead representing the omnipresent surveillance state. In Kashmir, the increased surveillance post-abrogation of Article 370 manifests through heightened monitoring of journalists, restrictions, and limitations on internet access.

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