Kashmiri Journalist Safina Nabi’s award cancelled, stirs controversy on press freedomtext_fields
Pune's Maharashtra Institute of Technology-World Peace University's decision to honour Kashmiri journalist Safina Nabi with a journalism award, followed by its abrupt cancellation just two days before the award ceremony, has raised questions about the state of journalism and press freedom in India.
She was supposed to receive the award on October 18.
Nabi, an independent journalist renowned for her work on gender, health, and human rights, was set to receive the award for her story, "The Half Widows of Kashmir," published by Scroll.
The university, in an official statement, maintained that "no external political or non-political pressure" influenced the decision to rescind the award. However, it acknowledged the potential for unwelcome controversies due to Nabi's expressed views, without taking a stance on her opinions.
The members of the jury decided not to attend the event in protest of the university's decision to cancel Nabi's award. They were not aware of the cancellation until Nabi informed them.
In an exclusive interview with Scroll, Safina Nabi shared her account of the events surrounding the award's selection and cancellation.
Nabi explained that she had not applied for the award and was initially unaware of the university's existence. The award selection process involved a jury of seven members, individually selecting winners based on pieces they appreciated during the year.
The university's contact with Nabi began on October 10 when she received an email request for her contact number. Subsequently, she was informed via a phone call that she had won the award. To confirm the legitimacy of the award, Nabi requested an official announcement via email, which the university provided.
However, on October 16, she received a call from the university, notifying her that the award was cancelled due to alleged political pressure and threats, citing concerns for her safety. The decision was confirmed to her by Dr. Rajeesh Kumar, an assistant professor at the university who had been coordinating her travel arrangements. However, he was not initially aware of the decision.
She also got a call from Dhiraj Singh, the director of the university’s media department who said: "There are some people who have different ideas about Article 370 and you are a Kashmiri and we are concerned about your security. We are an institution and, at the end of the day, this is a business. You have to understand our point also. You know the atmosphere in the country."
Nabi added that both the faculties were apologetic about the decision. Dhiraj Singh also offered to invite her as a speaker at the university’s ‘youth parliament’ in January. She refused the offer and called the institution "spineless".
Despite the university's justifications, Nabi asserted that her story, which had received international recognition and awards, did not contain any content that could be construed as contentious.