Today, Washington Post India head, Annie Gowen, who has earlier displayed her racist and Hinduphobic behaviour, took to Twitter to complain that the Indian government now requires foreign correspondents to have a special permit for reporting in Kashmir.
I am in Kashmir for a day to attend a friend’s wedding. I am not reporting here because @MEAIndia and @HMOIndia have not granted the special permit now required for foreign correspondents. I applied June 22. Unacceptable delay. @rcfp @CJR @hrw @RSF_en
— Annie Gowen (@anniegowen) July 31, 2018
In her tweet, she says that she is visiting Kashmir for a wedding, but she cannot report from there since Ministry of External Affairs and Home Ministry have not granted her the special permit ‘now’ required by foreign correspondents. She claims she had applied on 22nd June for the same. In subsequent tweets, she claims she is not sure why she would be ‘deported’ because she is trying to follow the ‘new enforcement rules regarding reporting in Kashmir’.
I’m not sure why they would deport me, when I am taking pains to follow their new enforcement rules regarding reporting in KAshmir https://t.co/2FNpviwgDv
— Annie Gowen (@anniegowen) July 31, 2018
Gowen mentions how the government has put together new rules for foreign correspondents in India for reporting on Kashmir and how she is trying to follow these new rules. But the truth is far from what she is saying. The Foreign (Restricted Areas) Order, 1958 and Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, some areas have been declared as Protected and Restricted Areas for entry and stay of foreigners [pdf].
According to the Order, all the areas falling between the ‘inner line’ as defined in the said order, and the International Border of the State have been declared as Protected Area. Whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and parts of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand have been declared as Protected Areas.
However, as per instructions issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 30.12.2010, the entire area of the States of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland has been excluded from the Protected Area regime notified under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order 1958, initially for a period of one year w.e.f. 1.1.2011, which has been extended from time to time. This relaxation has been extended till 31.12.2022 subject to the conditions. You could read more about it here [pdf].
So, essentially, the order is not ‘new’ as claimed by Gowen. It is only being enforced more strictly now, and following law of the land should not be considered being ‘dictated’ by the Indian state. So, Gowen trying to spin it as new rules is not only factually incorrect (she’s a journalist) but also seems like an orchestrated attempt to paint that India is making sure outsiders don’t know about the situation in Kashmir. That begs an important question – when journalists from publications like The Wire, The Quint and Scroll hate the current government (and more often than not, their hate for the Prime Minister forces them to take a narrative which is detrimental to Indian interests) more than the foreign correspondents could. So, essentially, this ‘new rule’ would hardly achieve anything.
People like Barkha Dutt, whose irresponsible reporting during Kargil war had reportedly spooked the Indian Army, continue to report from Kashmir, one could only wonder what worse could foreign correspondents do.
Since these rules are not new, why is the issue being raked up now? Is it because the Ministry of Home Affairs has started stricter implementation of these rules? And if it is so, how come the previous governments did not enforce the rules, especially since the rules were made by their own government in the earlier years after India’s independence. And if the rules were not followed, why didn’t the previous governments remove them instead, since they are of hardly any use. But if the rules exist, one can’t complain if they are being imposed otherwise it would be like all these days you were allowed to jump the traffic light, but when the police finally challenge you, you complain that it’s wrong.