Welcome to Orwellian state. George Orwell defined it as a method of control by usurping the civil liberties and freedom of the people and exercising complete surveillance over them in the name of misplaced national security interests in his book 1984 that he wrote in 1948. Seventy years hence, Kashmir valley controlled by jackboots, streets where people cannot venture and newspapers cannot be allowed to inform people, where internet is partially banned and new television channels totally shut, where random crackdowns and arrests continue and occasional protests in the curfewed roads are brutally crushed is an apt example of what George Orwell had depicted about a totalitarian state.
The Valley is once again caught in the grip of total siege with a complete ban on publications and newspapers, after having gotten away with this oppressive state control of not just freedom of expression but also the thought process in 2010, when newspapers remained shut for 18 days. Whatever, the state government may say about the curbs on the media, when police personnel march into the newspaper offices telling them to desist from printing newspapers and if they go ahead, their copies will be seized, it amounts to ‘ban’ without an official notification.
This control mechanism in the name of law and order is unjustified and does not serve any purpose, since it only enhances the scope of rumour mongering and exacerbating the anger of the people who are deeply shocked and furious over the hanging of Afzal Guru. Besides, it is violative of the fundamental rights of expression as guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Nowhere in the country would one find such methods of control that are being employed to stop media from informing in a bid to convert the state sponsored lies into truth. That this is happening in the name of democracy is even more shameful. This is not the first time that the media in Jammu and Kashmir has to face such a situation. Fear and threat perception forbade media persons from writing freely in the days of peak militancy in the beginning of 90s when newspapers published from the Valley did away with their editorial content because it was extremely hazardous to say anything without either the government agencies or one or the other militant organization issuing threats and harassing them. But this kind of a situation is totally absurd when there is a complete gag, which only happened in 2010 and the government miserably failed to respond to the several representations made by the media bodies.
The obvious aim of such control mechanisms is not simply to punish newspapers and publications for writing freely and criticizing the government, which the latter was already doing through various methods like blocking flow of advertisements and flow of information. It is done with the idea to control the very thought process of the people as well as their aspirations and sentiments, which is a fallacy. For years, the government has failed to rein in the people of Kashmir with its well oiled propaganda machinery and co-opted media that elude public interests and public aspirations as also to feed them with a packet of lies to cover up for its own miserable multiple failures in delivering. It is impossible to control sentiments of the same public by curbing their very flow of information and their ability to form their opinion on the basis of that
. The dangerous shift from the State’s commitment to controlling public mind to the fallacious bid of totally disabling them from thinking is going to cost not just the government heavily but will be a huge cost that people of this state would have to pay collectively in the longer run. It will only evoke greater anger, give space to more irrationality, rumours and allow vested interests to harness their benefits from this situation of a virtual totalitarian state, where if the people cannot fall in line with propaganda, they need a whip to be controlled. The disastrous fallout of this would be complete disillusionment and complete anarchy, on the ground and in the minds. Orwellian state has come out of fiction into real world, here in the Valley and is here to stay for much longer despite the despicability of such a situation.