Statement from Bombaykala Books on Facebook’s censorship of Chronicles of Kashmir

Screenshot 2018-07-13 11.14.43

Information for/from Outsiders: Chronicles from Kashmir is a play that has been in development since 2013, as a collaboration between Dr. Nandita Dinesh and the Ensemble Kashmir Theatre Akademi in Srinagar. Chronicles from Kashmir uses Argentine playwright Griselda Gambaro’s (1992) Information for Foreigners as its point of departure; it takes place in the promenade and is site-adaptive.

Chronicles from Kashmir seeks to create a sense of “balance”: between differently positioned voices that emerge when speaking about Kashmir; between differently placed narratives on the “victim”/ “perpetrator” spectrum. While there is an inevitable streak of political commentary that runs throughout the work — a political current that cannot be escaped when talking about Kashmir — Chronicles from Kashmir does not espouse any one political ideology. The playwrights see themselves as being artists and educators, using aesthetics and pedagogy to engage audiences with diverse perspectives from/about the Valley.

The “rejection” of Chronicles from Kashmir from Bombaykala Books’ own Facebook store is an attempt by Facebook to prevent varied and diverse voices from Kashmir being represented fairly and responsibly. While we understand that Facebook does not have the same duty to maintain free speech as a private company, we also understand that as a public platform, it has to be consistent with its policy. Facebook has taken off the post based on a cover image which conforms to all of its rules, without any explanation — quite literally judging a book by its cover and not its intrinsic art. This is a case of self-appointed censorship, that is unethical and unbecoming of an international organisation that is dedicated to social communication. This is not just an isolated incident — The Guardian and The Washington Post have reported on Facebook’s censorship of Kashmir-related postings, and Scroll has recently reported on Facebook’s use of “Community Standards” and “Commerce Standards” to block any views unfavourable to the current government, especially on sensitive topics like Kashmir.

Chronicles from Kashmir has previously been performed at The Company Theatre Workspace in Kamshet, Maharashtra, and in parts in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, the team behind Chronicles filmed a significant part of the script. The play has received critical acclaim from multiple sources, all of which were quoted in the “rejected” listing for the book:

Chronicles from Kashmir is probably the single most creative construct of the issues of Kashmir published in recent times. Its deeply sensitive and delicate essence will resonate amongst all those who feel for Kashmiris, Karishmiriyat and Kashmir.”
— Ritu Dewan, Academic and Activist

“The play enacts vignettes from Kashmir’s conflict, experienced from the inside: how it enters Kashmiri homes, how stone pelters take to the streets, how individuals deal with trauma.”
— Scroll.in

“Theatre practitioner Nandita Dinesh’s dream project on Kashmir, a compendium of multiple voices, aims to present the reasons for the internecine conflict…Nandita has slowly worked around the conflict, working with actors who present the voices of the soldier, the militant, and the common man caught in the crossfire.”
The Hindu

“Taking the stage to conflict zones, Nandita Dinesh wants to heal the world through drama.”
Deccan Chronicle

FURTHER READING

Dey, Abhishek. “Is Facebook Really Blocking Criticism of the Indian Government, BJP and Hindutva Groups?” Scroll, Scroll.in, 23 May 2018, www.scroll.in/article/852571/is-facebook-blocking-criticism-of-indian-government-bjp-and-right-wing-groups

Doshi, Vidhi. “Facebook under Fire for ‘Censoring’ Kashmir-Related Posts and Accounts.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 19 July 2016, www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/19/facebook-under-fire-censoring-kashmir-posts-accounts

Lakshmi, Rama. “Facebook Is Censoring Some Posts on Indian Kashmir.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 27 July 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/27/facebook-is-censoring-posts-on-indian-kashmir-some-say/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.765e983cda56

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