The Enforced Disappearances of Kashmiri Writing

August  23, 2023
Indian-occupied Kashmir.


Ather Zia, the Editor at Large of Kashmir Lit writes of how the 15+ year old webzine was hacked and taken down.


Kashmir Lit which is a 15+ year old webzine and not new to being hacked — has once again been taken down and this time it is proving very difficult to get it back.


It started with the “sudden disappearance” of two articles (see below) and another connected to the same theme titled “DELETED” where the magazine had presented a single empty page that symbolized all articles that it had to delete for safety of the writers. No one from the webzine team had deleted these pages. Upon investigation it was clearly a phenomenal hack job that had left no trace of breaking into the site but their footprints which only experts can discern were clearly visible. The editors did not think much of it being used to hacking and restored both pages. However, within a few days they found out that the entire website was taken down. The Kashmir Lit team is trying to restore the site and is hopeful.


In the meantime, it is important for us to document what happened to one of the most beloved webzines which is dedicated to Kashmiri art and literature.


Kashmiri writing and Kashmiris writing are under attack from India. Many write-ups on Kashmir are reported to be mysteriously disappearing. Kashmiri journalists wake up to their entire oeuvre being deleted from the internet. These reports mostly pertain to the real ground situation in Kashmir. This “vanishing of Kashmir’s newspaper archive” has been engineered to establish the full-fledged hegemony of the Indian narrative on Kashmir and drown Kashmiri voices. As a Kashmiri journalist states, it is to, “write-off facts and truth about the situation in Kashmir.”


There is another side to how Kashmiri writing is being made to disappear. This is a Kashmir Lit specific example, and we cannot confirm if this is happening with other portals. In the last few years, Kashmir Lit is increasingly receiving requests from Kashmiri writers and poets to delete their writings featured in our webzine. This of course follows the persecution of Kashmiris for truthfully documenting the struggle for self-determination and resistance. Writing has become even more risky and dangerous. It is not only new writing that can land people in trouble with the Indian government but also anything written in the past that hints at mere dissent can be considered an act of “terrorism” against India.


To ensure the safety of the writer, Kashmir Lit has been without question deleting their writing. Imperial tyrannies don’t last and we are positive there will be a time when we can proudly publish these writings again. However, we are unable to save them for our private/hidden archive nor are most writers willing to take pseudonyms or publish anonymously. Such is the fear of persecution. We are pained but we understand and stand in solidarity with each and every Kashmiri and Kashmiri writer.


Initially, we thought it would be just a few pages that needed deletion, but the number in all genres, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc increased. For almost everything in Kashmir which entails a background check be it applying for government jobs, loans, or passports, people require records that show no sign of dissent against India. This is why many Kashmiris are forced not just to mute themselves but also to travel back into their past and scrape their records clean. While this signals a future imposed with extreme silencing, we also know Kashmiris are nothing if not resilient and irrepressible.


We know writing the truth about Kashmir has been effectively criminalized and people labeled “terrorists” for mere dissent. We are worried that this level of erasure enforced on Kashmiris; most likely multiplied across different media platforms and portals will annihilate a huge archive documenting India’s hegemony, human rights abuses by the Indian forces, Kashmiri resistance, struggle for self-determination, and Azadi..


In an array of laws passed that have put Indian settler colonialism on steroids, the government of India has imposed a new media policy, effectively a gag on the Kashmiri media. Kashmiris have always lived under strict censorship, only now it is fully institutionalized and legalized. Under the current Hindu supremacist government in India, it has reached a new height. Kashmiri journalists are easily booked under terror charges and slapped with arbitrary allegations about incitement, sympathizing with Tehreek (resistance), and fake news. In short, jailed for doing their job. The gag ensures that no common Kashmiri or a scribe, writer, or opinion leader can write freely about Kashmir, excluding those who want to show India in a positive light. Writers who have sold their souls to India and willingly portray the Indian military occupation as a full-fledged democracy are the ones receiving patronage. We stand in solidarity with all Kashmiris and Kashmiri writers who are being forced to mute themselves.


This is effectively an enforced disappearance of Kashmiri writing and erasure of Kashmiri writers, except those who are willing to do India’s bidding. It is only a matter of time before the other shoe drops for the ones still able to write with some integrity.


We at Kashmir Lit want to make sure we mark this moment of erasure of necessary writing. We know how painful it is for a writer to have their writing deleted. We can sympathize with the pain behind each request. We know this is not mere self-censorship but akin to cutting off one’s tongue. We stand in solidarity with all Kashmiris and Kashmiri writers. We know you are not silent but silenced. We know you will get through this and your voice will be heard, acknowledged, and amplified.


While it is not feasible to feature a blank page for each deletion, we carry symbolic blank pages to honor and commemorate each enforced disappearance of a voice from our webzine. This is in hope that posterity will not judge this period in Kashmiri writing as “compliant,” “missing” or “silent.” We hope that future historians and commentators will make sure to scrape the interwebs for the writings that were “forcibly disappeared” and excavate the voices that were muted so brutally and buried under self-censorship.



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