The Indian government has prevented an award-winning photographer from traveling to the United States to collect her Pulitzer Prize, the latest of several Kashmiri journalists blocked from leaving the country.
Sanna Irshad Mattoo was one of four journalists working for Reuters who won the prestigious award for feature photography this year. She has been praised for capturing life in India’s Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), a volatile and militarized Himalayan territory with a long-standing insurgency.
Mattoo was prevented from entering India’s New Delhi airport late Tuesday and barred from boarding, while her colleagues were permitted to leave the country.
“I have no idea what to say… this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” Mattoo, a member of Magnum, told AFP.
“Only I was stopped without any reason, while the others were allowed to go,” she said.
“Maybe it has something to do with me being a Kashmiri.” Mattoo was stopped at the same airport again Tuesday. On her way to Paris in July, she was stopped while exiting India.
With tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir rarely dying down, their control of the area has always been a source of tension. And now, India has sought to entrench its control.
Thousands of people have been killed there since the start of a rebellion against Indian rule in 1989, and more than half a million troops are permanently stationed there.
According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, it was forced to cut the jurisdiction of the territory’s autonomy in 2019, severing internet connections for months and detaining political leaders to forestall an anticipated backlash. Local reporters based in the territory say they have been pressured to tone down their work.