WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than a 100 Kashmiri Pandits joined by several more Hindu American community activists, protested outside the office of The Washington Post on Sept. 7, alleging biased and distorted reporting on recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir, following the decision by the Indian government to revoke Article 370 of India’s constitution that provides for special status to Kashmir.
The demonstration organized under the aegis of the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora and led by Dr. Vijay Sazawal, founder and international coordinator of the Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF) accused the The Washington Post of
“biased and untruthful reporting regarding Kashmir, Kashmiris, and situation in Kashmir,” and said the Post was part of the western media that is “blatantly engaging individuals and organizations that foment and support terrorism but they do not talk to real Kashmiris and publish their version.”
The protestors, the majority from the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, including the suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, were bused downtown in a luxury bus to 1301 K Street, NW., where the Post is headquartered and provided with boxed lunches and chai, much of which was sponsored and underwritten by Adapa Prasad, a leading entrepreneur and longtime stalwart of the Overseas Friends of the BJP(OFBJP).
A memorandum submitted to the newspaper said, "Your coverage has not addressed the dejure lawlessness that existed in the State of J&K due to Article 370 accompanied by Article 35A which supposedly granted special status to the State.”
The protestors who assembled at 10.30 am on Sept. 6, in front of the Post office, also carried placards and raised slogans, strongly supporting the actions and decisions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government and said the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35 A was “a bold and historic step.”
Mohan Sapru, the chief coordinator of the rally, argued, "Nowhere in The Washington Post media narratives is their mention that in this lawless state the most heinous genocide was committed against the aboriginal people, the Kashmiri Pandits, resulting in their virtual exile.”
He asserted that “The Washington Post's biased reporting ignores the inconvenient truth that Article 370 and Article 35A … have denied democratic rights to minorities, women and weaker sections of the society while throttling Kashmir's economy...(and) Kashmir Valley became breeding ground for rampant corruption, separatism.”
Sazawal, echoing similar sentiments said that The Post’s coverage had been overly sympathetic to Kashmir’s Muslim-majority community while ignoring the concerns and the ethnic cleansing of theKashmiri Pandits who are Hindus and other minorities, who had lived peacefully in Kashmir for decades before being forced into exile by the Pakistan-sponsored militants.
He said, “The point The Post has consistently failed to recognize is the injustice that has been done to the minorities of Kashmir by the majority community, which is the Muslim community.”
He told a Post reporter covering the protest, “You don’t recognize, we have been ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley in the past 20 years.”
Sazawal earlier read out a statement that was punctuated by applause by the demonstrators who flanked him, some carrying megaphones.
At the outset, he said, “I used to be a regular subscriber of The Post ever since I settled in the Washington area in 1996. In 2013, the paper was sold by Don Graham and his family and an era of objective, fair, and balanced reporting in the paper came to an end.”
Sazawal said that the newspaper “showed its deep one-sided bias while reporting on events following the Indian Parliamentary decision regarding abrogation of Article 370. I pointed this out to The Post correspondents in India, namely, Niha Masih and Joanna Slater, giving them specific examples where their reporting fell short. But in spite of my repeated efforts, they continued to ignore the viewpoint of Kashmiri minorities.”
“On August 17, 2019,” he said, “an article in The Post, under the byline of Marissa Lang, described an anti-India demonstration outside of the Indian Embassy at DuPont Circle on August 16. But a day earlier, on August 15, an even bigger demonstration expressing support for the Indian Parliamentary decision was held at the same location. This demonstration received no coverage in The Post even though the crowd was larger in size. Neither did Ms. Lang make any reference to this demonstration in her reporting.”
Sazawal told the protestors of how “On the same day, I wrote to Mr. Fred Hiatt of The Post stating the facts noted above and requested him to give the minorities of Kashmir equal time to make their statement and have it published in the paper. I received no reply.”
“Western journalists, including the Post, should be ashamed of their reporting on Kashmir. The Post by stating the changes introduced by the Indian Parliament on the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir State as a victory of Hinduism over Islam is disgraceful, disgusting, and disingenuous,” he complained.
Sazawal then challenged Hiatt “to come out of the building and meet with real Kashmir born and raised Americans who fully support and endorse actions taken by the Indian government and their parliament regarding Article 370,” and exhorted the Post that it “must stop its biased one-sided reporting on the situation in Kashmir.”
But the newspaper’s Foreign Editor Douglas Jehl, said, “The Post’s coverage of India’s actions in Kashmir since the Aug. 5 crackdown has been fair, accurate and comprehensive — at a time when India has imposed tight restrictions on the flow of information and has severely limited access by our journalists trying to cover this important story.”
And in providing background to its news report of the demonstration by the Kashmir Pandits and other Hindu Americans, said, “Last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following a path long advocated by Hindu nationalists, revoked a measure of Kashmir’s autonomy and imposed a communications blackout over the majority-Muslim region and detained thousands of people, including politicians and activists. The move, breaking with decades of history, has affected millions in the region.”
It said, “Critics called the prime minister’s action unconstitutional and warned that the crackdown would backfire by stirring violent protest and separatist passions.”
The report added, “Although India’s government has said the situation has eased in recent days, the Kashmir valley is still cut off without Internet or mobile phone service. Stores have closed in protest, and nearly all of the region’s political leadership is under arrest.”
While the largest protest was being staged by the Kashmiri Pandits, a smaller group of a couple of dozen Pakistani Americans and Kashmiri Americans advocating separatism joined by a few Sikh Americans who support a separate state of Khalistan in Punjab, held a silent demonstration in support of The Post.
There was a slight altercation when some of these demonstrators tried to stop journalists covering both protests from taking pictures and talking to them, but the issue was quickly resolved by the intervention of the D.C. police officers.
Meanwhile, a group of American Muslims, including some South Asian American members—both Pakistani American and Indian American Muslims—of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—the largest Muslim American advocacy organization -- that has been intermittently holding protest demonstrations in front of the Indian embassy on Massachusetts Av., NW, held yet another peaceful demonstration on Sept. 7, handing out leaflets and flyers to passers-by and those admiring the Mahatma Gandhi statue that stands on public land opposite the embassy, condemning the Indian government decision of revoking special status for Kashmir and the alleged human rights violations that continue against the people in the valley.