Interviewed by Emma Elobeid and Fiona Stuart, MA Journalism Falmouth University
“When you grow up in a place full of fear, you eventually get used to it,” said Kashmir-born journalist Ahmer Khan. “In Kashmir, everyone is so consumed by pain that one finds it difficult to breathe. My work is my coping mechanism.”
Khan and cameraman Siddarth Bokolia are finalists in the News category of the 2020 Rory Peck Awards for their film Defending Kashmir: Anchar’s last stand against India’s control, which records events a month after India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy in 2019.
Inside the Srinagar suburb of Anchar, the last pocket of resistance against Indian rule, they found “fear and fearlessness, siege and desperation” among the exhausted young protestors there. The conditions were difficult for the journalists too. “It is impossible to explain the trauma of working in that environment,” Khan said.
Operating in a military lockdown and media blockade, security and basic communication were huge challenges as mobile and internet services were suspended across Kashmir. Khan flew back to New Delhi repeatedly to ensure his footage got out and to confer with editors at the Guardian.
Reaching the Rory Peck Awards is a mark of support for their journalism, Khan said. “If Rory Peck happens, it would be special because it is one of the most prestigious awards for freelance journalists working independently in times of crisis. It would encourage me to continue doing what I am doing.”
He voiced a deep sense of responsibility to those he filmed, from the youth shot by Indian security forces – the pellets still lodged in his body – to the young woman calling on the world to help and not remain silent.
“All I can do is not let their stories die, “said Khan, “We do not have a choice.”