51 LIVES IN 57 DAYS, WE NEED AN ANSWER FROM INDIAN MEDIA,
The day when Indian media relieves itself of Kashmir-phobia and stops feeding lies to people and polluting minds on false reporting, misconceptions and disinformation, that day will herald India’s tryst with truth. That day the father of Nation called India will take a breath of peace at his Smadhi in Rajghat Delhi. That will be the day when Kashmir will have its redemption from all miseries and agonies.
It is this powerful institution that is holding Kashmiris hostage to satiate its Hindu nationalist instincts. It sweetly but cunningly dresses up under Indian nationalism. What Ayesha Jalal calls ‘unitary nationalism’ and ‘pejorative communalism’ Indian newspapers, news channels, their panelists, anchors, analysts, editors, reporters and the Bollywood, all in one voice (a minuscule exceptions notwithstanding) join this common ‘cause’ thereby making a blend of the two components. With this ‘reinforcement’ from academics of journalism, the ‘national’ obligation of holding a territory (of unwilling people) does not look that difficult, even if human rights abuses continue unabated. Even if plebiscite pledges committed stand denied and democracy molested. Whether pre-fire intoxication or post-fire ‘justification’, the source of strength for Indian soldiery emanates from this powerful grid. That makes, moulds and breaks opinion.
In an interview with BBC (Urdu Service) on July 07, the Booker Prize winner and eminent writer and human rights activist Arundhati Roy accused Indian media for its malicious role in continuously nourishing gullible Indian people on the deceit of ‘falsehood, misinformation and disinformation’ when it comes to Kashmir. She said ‘since decades they keep telling patent lies to Indian people’. She termed it ‘intellectual deceit’ and asked Indian media and intellectuals to change their mind. Mincing no words she asserted that current unrest and volatile situation in Kashmir is because of ‘military coercion’.
But the voices like Roy who have not drugged their conscience and smitten their soul are few. Otherwise, Indian media and Bollywood are running a flourishing industry of deceit, canard and Geobblean lies in Kashmir under the garb of “patriotism”. To them it’s like a sacred war fought by all anchors, their carefully chosen panelists and field reporters. And as they say everything is fair in war, they become a party to the discourse. Ignoring ethics of journalism they cast themselves into “Kar Sevaks” of Indian nationalism where minarets of justice and truth has to be pulled down. Brick by brick, stone by stone. A new variant of Rhambo (aggressive) nationalism driven by hubris, they want to raise on the debris of pulled down “structure” of academics of journalism. With a seamless shamelessness they disseminate their own version either to keep naive Indian completely ignorant of ground reality in Kashmir or to excite them against Kashmiris like lunatics in politics do.
A few examples here will reveal what can aptly be called ‘lumpenisation’ of Indian journalism. Just hold on. As the ‘children of the conflict’ began to express their home-grown aspiration for freedom and refused to be deterred by Indian military might and surged on the streets, media in India especially electronic started a vicious campaign where first casualty was truth. They indulged in spewing venom and holding provocative discourse. The cumulative effect and impact designed was to portray the image of the stone-pelting children as those of ‘combatants’, ‘warriors’, even ‘terrorists’, ‘paid’ and ‘rented’. [Paid and rented? For what? For ‘stone-throwing’! And in the process get killed and maimed for life! What is the worth of five hundred or five thousand rupees when stone-pelting ‘provocation’ causes death. Who will sell his life against a bullet? And is the bullet answer to stone in the hand of a nine year old child of Srinagar or 13 year old Faizan of Varmul?] It was malice at its worst, when Indian government released its dubious transcripts and tapes of alleged conversation between some ‘leaders’ from ‘separatist’ camp, in a bid to prove that street demonstration were not spontaneous but organized. The stinking bias did not allow the ‘investigative’ and ‘professional’ journalists to crosscheck the veracity of the audiotapes though the manipulation was too visible. Without any counter the media carried these tapes and sided with the Indian establishment. The malicious intent was to justify brutal action against the unarmed youth and convince Indian junta that Delhi is acting in the best interests of the security of Indian nation. It is only in Kashmir where false construct of government in Delhi always and openly mixes with the deceit of the Indian media which “refines” it to make it palatable. Kashmir exposes the professionalism of film-makers and media persons of India.
To instigate Indian people against Muslims of Kashmir – who have always maintained religious harmony – a communal twist was given to the prevailing situation in Kashmir. Amaranth Yatra (a Hindu pilgrimage to Amarnath cave in high altitudes of Kashmir, the duration of which has been extended to two months from earlier three weeks stipulated time, in disregard to vandalisation of fragile environment due to excessive flow of yatrees) was covered and reported as a “peace offensive” against ‘separatists’. The impression created was the ‘separatists’ who spearhead the resistance movement, are against the very arrival of pilgrims in Kashmir, which is nothing but a downright lie.
Despite the resistance movement sustaining on its with its indigenous character all prominently manifested, Kashmiris are treated as extension of an enemy Pakistan. At a time when Pakistan is fighting for its own survival against the various forces and Kashmir is not getting the attention that it once received from across, still Indians don’t feel ashamed of branding it ‘cross-border terrorism’
Equating protestors, forty per cent of which include teen-agers, with ‘terrorists’, Hindustan Times (Delhi February 07, 2010) carried a story ‘Mobs bigger than terrorists’, and completely absolved Indian paramilitary forces for any “wrong doing” in the gruesome murder of Zahid Farooq of Brain Nishat. The tragedy shook valley and fueled anti-India sentiments that continue to intensify every passing day. Though the witnesses saw a BSF trooper Lakhvinder shooting down on his commandant’s orders Zahid (a seventeen year old school going child) on a relatively calm day, after he returned from cricket playground with his friends (substantiated by JK government inquiry too), the report delivered the judgement: ‘It needs to be investigated by prima facie, the bullet wounds on the boy’s chest appear to have been caused due to small weapon rather than the rifle (that forces use)’. It lay blame on ‘stone pelting mobs and rumor mongering’ for spreading rumor of ‘central security forces’ responsible for killing of Zahid.
On 4th of August, NDTV team visited Srinagar to cover ‘volatile’ situation. In ‘paradise lost?’ she highlights youth draining out their anger in setting ablaze police vehicles, indulging in stone throwing, wielding lathis and chanting slogans. The repeated coverage was a tacit invitation to more forces from India to quell the public demonstrations. But not for once the it was shown to Indian people what havoc the Indian forces have wrought to inmates of Srinagar. That is actually where the buck stops.
Anyways, the channel mentions 9 year old Irfan’s heart-rending killing: ‘Police version’, they say , ‘is that he was killed in a stampede but his parents say he was beaten to death? Here ends the ‘story’. But leaves the viewers guessing. By whom? Instead of saying ‘beaten to death by security forces, as was the version of the victim’s family, the articulate anchor chose to amputate the concluding part of the family statement. For, it would have ‘maligned the image of security forces’. And proved Arundhati Roy right. After all, they are here to tailor realities to the palatability of their people in India.
Tail Piece: – Times Now on August 03 asked ‘five questions’ to Suresh Kalmadi in its ‘Games scam’ expose. All other channels followed, suit. A tirade. Heads started rolling. Ours is only one question to Indian media. Why and what for 31 civilians in Kashmir were gunned down first in just one month and then 51 in 57 days. We need an answer.
(The author can be reached at email@example.com)