Demonetization has been not very much influencing Kashmiris due to regular shutdowns. But, due to the non – availability of new currency notes at J&K Bank branches in Kupwara, people have been suffering badly.
Pir Azhar is an activist and Community Correspondent for the KashmirUnheard team. Pir has used alternative media to bring attention to problems faced by people of his area. He has been successful in using media effectively to put pressure on authorities and get long pending issues resolved. He is now using Mobile Journalism as a tool and ideating citizen journalists by giving them training in rural areas where main stream media has no access.
Pir belongs to a lower middle-class family whose earning mainly comes from agriculture and horticulture. He grew up in Kupawara district, the northern part of the Kashmir valley, one of the most disturbed areas of conflict-driven Jammu and Kashmir. Pir has extensively reported on different themes and issues related to the conflict. Particularly on the atrocities committed by the Indian Army like torturing civilians, killing them in fake encounters and harassing women during search operations. He has also covered the massive rising after Burhan Wani’s killing. Along with these, his work includes reporting on cases of enforced disappearances. The impact of his stories has been tremendous.
Pir is an Arts graduate and has also earned a Masters degree in Public Administration. He previously worked at the Charkha Development and Communications Network, where he published articles on development. Pir was awarded Sanjoy Ghose Media Fellowships, in 2014 from Charkha Organisation.
In 2014 he joined Video Volunteers.
“I am satisfied with the fact that we can tell our stories from the ground without any censorship. Mainstream media is driven by certain agendas, it highlights selected news for material gains- but I try to report the untold and unheard stories of Kashmir. I am trying to dig these stories from this violence-hit area of Kashmir, which often becomes challenging for me.” Pir aims to fill the news gap in his area.
“Reporters from national and international media agencies come and cover the gun battles which usually rage in these hills and go back, but I strive to document the impact of these gunfights on the common masses.”
Reporting stories from Kupwara aren’t easy, working in such tense situations involves a lot of risks, but it helped Pir growing into a confident reporter. The people of his Kupwara district see him as a leader and look up to him for issues that affect their daily lives.
Pir has also covered many development-related stories, especially issues concerning his village like electricity problems, non-functional dispensaries, irrigation canal blocking, roads in shambles and lack of water facilities. Another area of his reportage is the education sector, particularly the lack of facilities or infrastructure in government schools in the district. Occasionally he reports about non-conflict related topics, like the the adventurous story of a secret passage to Russia.
The story that hit Pir the hardest was when he went to cover life and living conditions of the communities living near the Line of Control (LOC), the contentious India-Pakistan border in Kashmir. “I will always remember that story. It is very difficult for the media to access that part of Kashmir, but I took on the challenge and reported from the sensitive border. There was immense suffering.”
Pir believes if we want to change the way people think we must change the way the media operates. “Community media can become a global movement because of the cost of technology and the ease of distribution. Everyone knows me as a reporter here. I am proud of bringing some change at the local level by using my camera which is the best tool I have.”
During his tenure, Pir has been awarded with ‘Best Video’ award, twice. He is now also a part of Change Chitra workshop, which is year-long programme of Video Volunteers, in documentary film making for social activism.