Srinagar, Kashmir —
Political cartooning, a long-held tradition in Indian-ruled Kashmir, has lost its appeal and much of its relevance in the region due to increased government scrutiny and censorship by publishers, implementers say.
A popular cartoonist, whose drawings have graced a local newspaper for years, said he had not practiced journalism in more than four years, feeling he could no longer express his political opinions the way he wanted to.
“Cartoons serve as commentary on news stories, but when the news itself disappears from newspapers, cartoons lose their significance,” said the cartoonist, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. “I quit because I don’t have freedom anymore.”
During three India-Pakistan wars over the Kashmir dispute and decades of anti-India movements, cartoonists in the region have used their expertise to expose human rights abuses, government failures and socio-political struggles.
But several artists and editors tell VOA such passionate comments have largely disappeared since the Indian government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status in 2019. India also introduced a new media policy for the region the following year.
The policy, among other things, empowers authorities in Kashmir to accredit journalists and news outlets, distribute government advertisements, and determine what constitutes fake or incitement news. (ps/hr)