SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

Three Associated Press (AP) photojournalists from Indian-administered Kashmir have been awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

Dar Yasin and Mukhtar Khan from Kashmir and Channi Anand from Jammu won the prestigious award for their work during the military lockdown and communication blockade imposed by the Indian government last August after revoking the region’s autonomy.

“The images take us deep into the experience of Kashmiris living under near-totalitarian Indian rule: the influx of soldiers, the blackout of communication and information, and the banning of public gatherings,” the agency said in a press release.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt hailed the “important and superb” work of the Kashmiri journalists.

“This honor continues AP’s great tradition of award-winning photography. Thanks to the team inside Kashmir, the world was able to witness a dramatic escalation of the long struggle over the region’s independence. Their work was important and superb,” he said.

The statement recounted the difficulties the journalists overcame as they repeatedly fled “both security forces and angry crowds – sometimes hiding in the homes of strangers.”

“With phone lines and the internet shut down for weeks, the photographers worked creatively to get their images out to the world, including slipping through roadblocks to the airport to find strangers willing to carry memory cards containing the photos to fellow AP staffers waiting in New Delhi,” read the statement.

“We are enormously proud of the work by Dar, Mukhtar and Channi. Their skill, bravery and ingenuity in the face of many obstacles gave the world vital and insightful glimpses into the extraordinary situation in Kashmir,” said AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.

“Their commitment to telling this story is profound.”

In a separate report published by AP, Yasin said: “It was always cat-and-mouse. These things made us more determined than ever to never be silenced.”

An engineering graduate from a family of celebrated photojournalists, Yasin also won the inaugural Yannis Behrakis International Photojournalism Award last year for his coverage of the Kashmir conflict.

Anand said the award left him speechless. “I was shocked and could not believe it,” he told AP.

Disputed territory

Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts, and claimed by both in full. A small sliver is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought four wars – in 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999 – three of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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