Every hour of prime time TV news aggression pushes Kashmir a mile westward from India

There is an urgent need for India to reclaim “national interest” from its national media.

Written by Shah Faesal | Updated: July 20, 2016 4:32 pm
kashmir, kashmir protest, kashmir violence, burhan wani killing, media on kashmir protest, media coverage on kashmir protest, kashmir protest media coverage, kashmir curfew, curfew in kashmir, kashmiri residents, terror in kashmir, kashmiri muslims, national interest in media coverage, zee news debate, kashmir debate, zee news kashmir debate, media insensitivity, kashmir coverage, indian army in kashmir, role of indian army in kashmir, condition of people in kashmir, selective coverage by indian media, selective kashmir coverage by indian media, indian express news, indian express column, column Illustration by: C R Sasikumar

On the afternoon of July 13, my one-year-old child was finding it difficult to sleep because the adjacent curfewed street had been rattling with a sinister medley of azadi slogans and tear-gas explosions since daybreak. In a conflict zone, introduction to violence is a part of a child’s baptism. So here I was witnessing the exact moment when my child was getting marked as a Kashmiri — the tabula rasa of his mind impacted by history, much before he would be circumcised and officially marked as a Muslim. Kashmir had knocked at his conscience much before Islam. Three decades ago, I was in a similar moment with my father stroking me to sleep while mortar shells were pounding the hills in our backyard. Interestingly, the afternoon marked yet another familiar yet bloody rendezvous between the Valley’s past and present — it was 85th Martyr’s day. But the street unrest had a rather unusual trigger this time — the death of a young militant commander at Kokernag on July 8.

WATCH VIDEO: Kashmir Protests Victim: 5-Year Old Zohra On How She Got Hit

 

Also read | Hilal Mir writes, Why Kashmiri media is muzzled

Around the same time, I was alerted by an unknown caller that Zee News had been running a marathon discussion for past two days on the current crisis, and my photographs and videos were also being juxtaposed with the visuals, dead and alive, of young local militants from Kashmir, as some sort of a clash of role models.

It perturbed me a lot — not only for the sheer insensitivity and shallowness with which this was being done but also for the security risk that it posed to my life. I was puzzled because with a Rs 50,000 monthly salary and a Rs 50 lakh housing loan I was certainly not the best example of a successful Kashmiri youngster.

Also by Shah Faesal, Till ‘Azadi’ comes

More so when the only measure of greatness here is the size of one’s funeral procession. Who would want to die for Rs 50,000 and die unattended, at that. My fears were proven right: Soon, I was told, there was a huge mob outside our colony, rallying against the remarks of the Zee News anchor asking the dead militants to be burnt along with garbage instead of being buried in India’s land; the studio and the street were competing with each other.

WATCH VIDEO: Kashmir Protests: Visuals Of Curfew In the State

 

Next day, I left for my office, incognito, wearing a kurta-pyjama and a farmer’s cap, hopping across check posts like a thief, knowing well that if a group of enraged youngsters recognised me, I might be in trouble, and rightly so, for falling on the wrong side of the Kashmiri vs Indian binary at such a critical juncture. Abusive comments on my Facebook wall had the same refrain.

In the last few years, a section of the national media has been misrepresenting the idea of India in Kashmir, as part of a business strategy. It has also been projecting lies about Kashmir to rest of the country. It happened in 2008, in 2010, and in 2014. So there is nothing surprising about the tilt and the timing of this debate.

Almost all the programmes on Kashmir right now are aimed to provoke people, the coverage is selective, and intention appears to be to compound the problems for the state government. The print media, though, has always maintained balance.

What made the current round of commercial savagery by a few news channels even more tragic was that they continued to promote falsehoods, dividing people, creating hatred, completely disregarding the values of democracy and secularism, even when people were dying and the government was trying hard to calm down people’s passions. It did not stop even after appeals were made to de-escalate. This brazenness to market TRPs as national interest and do business over the dead bodies of young men was the worst aspect of these loud newsrooms.

Watch Video: What’s making news

 

Kashmir or no Kashmir, the biggest challenge for India, this time, is how to reclaim the custody of “national interest” from its national media, and restore communication with its neighbours and people. I have no hesitation in saying that Zee News, Times Now, NewsX and Aaj Tak are at the vanguard of a movement that will take India from a dialogical civilisation to a dumb, illogical civilisation.

In the Indian tradition, the state is supposed to communicate with its people through accommodation, not harangue, and through welfare, not violence. Ashoka put together a network of pillars and edicts to communicate with his people. During the Mughal rule, Diwan e Aam also symbolised direct communication between the state and its subjects. The firmans could only be issued by the sovereign, not by scribes and minstrels, as is the case today. In the Islamic tradition, too, truth, patience and perseverance are central to communicating. As a confluence of Indo-Islamic experience, Kashmir needs a mix of honesty, truth and directness. Communication that divides will only hurt India’s case further.

When we are looking for the causes of the ongoing unrest, we must also look at how we have outsourced, or rather abdicated, communications to TV channels, which are only interested in provoking and alienating. The Indian state can’t afford to leave the Kashmir project to intellectual renegades, political turncoats, opportunists, intelligence agencies, and most importantly, to self-appointed vigilantes of the national interest.

In Kashmir, people often confuse the outrageous editorial policy of the national media with the oppressive state policy. When Kashmiri representatives are bullied in TV debates, their aspirations ridiculed, their grievances shouted down, the symbols of Kashmiri pride insulted, or when non-issues are given precedence over the killing of the innocents, when military bravado is encouraged over civilian agony, when positive initiatives of the state government are overlooked, and truth is not shown at all, and most importantly, when cows are made to feel more important than the Kashmiri people, the frustration and anger will, expectedly, be directed against India. Every hour of prime time TV news aggression pushes Kashmir a mile westward from India.

It may not be easy to intervene or even shut down these mirror-houses of hateful journalism because there are constitutional safeguards for freedom of speech. But the unity and integrity of the country is a far bigger imperative and we will have to restore the original, traditional and additional channels of communication between Delhi and Srinagar that can cut down the noise and bile, and make newsroom nationalism irrelevant. We may as well have to convince these media houses to tone down their jingoistic rhetoric and pay heed to the feedback from the ground.

Ask teenagers in Srinagar and they will tell you how all these years India has been communicating to Kashmiris through rigged elections, dismissal of elected governments, through encounters and corruption. They will tell you how India has become synonymous with a military bunker or a police vehicle or a ranting panelist on prime time television. Is this the idea of India which can win Kashmiri hearts? Accepting what India and its symbols stand for in the eyes of a Kashmiri is the first step towards untangling this Gordian knot.

Kashmiris are very sensitive people. But they are by nature sceptics as well. Any dialogue with Kashmiris will bear fruit only in an atmosphere of warmth and will have to be done on equal terms, not as ehsan. The prime minister, who has single-handedly transformed India’s global image, should take upon himself the task of transforming India’s image in Kashmir.

(This article first appeared in the print edition under the headline “Between the studio and the street.”)

The writer, an IAS officer, is director, school education, Kashmir. Views are personal

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. H
    Henry Goh
    Jan 4, 2017 at 9:18 am
    Fidelity Loan Finance is a government approved credit firm, we give out loans to individuals and organizations with an interest rate of 2% world wide. Get back to me if you are interested fore further details through this mail box:
    Reply
    1. L
      Luciana Albert
      Mar 14, 2017 at 3:56 pm
      LOAN OFFER‎lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Good day Sir/Madam,‎lt;br/gt;Getting a loan from Grayson Investments Company is 100% ured and the legitimacy of the transaction is 100% Guaranteed. email: or contact: 1 (219) 9909-186 Legitimate loan have always There was a huge problem for people with financial problem and need a solution. Question credit and collateral lt;br/gt;are sometimes clients are always worried about When seeking a loan from a legitimate lender.‎lt;br/gt;Our services include in the following:‎lt;br/gt;Debt consolidation*lt;br/gt;second mortgage*lt;br/gt;Business loans*lt;br/gt;Personal Loans*lt;br/gt;International credits*lt;br/gt;Student loans*lt;br/gt;Family credit*lt;br/gt;For more details go to purchase loan, contact us Please respond immediately to this email: or contact 1(219) 9909-186 Please ‎ note that the credit is issued in the amount of 3% interest, kindly get back to us now, if You are interested.‎lt;br/gt;‎
      Reply
      1. A
        Abhinav Gour
        Jul 20, 2016 at 12:20 pm
        Well written article by a very responsible Kashmiri - Leadership of country must raise to the occation and handle the issue with upmost care. We as a nation also need to understand the anger with our own youth. Instead of put blame on sthan for all problems in Kashmir. we should ourselves consider that this is our internal issue and not of sthan. Let us do the right things first - Let PM handles the Kashmir Problem and Military handles the sthan and NOT other way round
        Reply
        1. A
          Abhinav Gour
          Jul 19, 2016 at 2:13 am
          Communication and conflict are integral. Communication can creat conflict but can be resolved through communication.
          Reply
          1. A
            Anurag
            Jul 19, 2016 at 5:50 pm
            Editor is an educated Kashmiri fool(Regret my tax money was wasted on such a garbage).No matter what Kashmir is inalienable from India.
            Reply
            1. P
              pushpraj singh
              Aug 18, 2016 at 4:32 pm
              Insightful article..
              Reply
              1. S
                Shiva
                Jul 22, 2016 at 5:08 am
                stan is an accident of history.
                Reply
                1. S
                  Shiva
                  Jul 22, 2016 at 5:07 am
                  Your country wont last that long.
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Shiva
                    Jul 22, 2016 at 5:02 am
                    Your wretched country wont last another decade.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Anjali
                      Jul 23, 2016 at 2:52 pm
                      With due respect Sir, so you mean that only one voice should prevail and rest wit alternate views should be destro...? Wouldn't that be against democracy?
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Anuj
                        Jul 19, 2016 at 2:49 am
                        Although i agree with him on many points about media but if Kashmiri people are sensitive then why 700000 pandits were forced to leave their homes .gt;gt;??Pls talk about them too ...Are not they part of kashmir ?Atleast you should have written one line about then so that your article would have been more credible .How many muslim leaders have gone to meet Pandits in camps and after the exodus ...Be logical and rational dia cant sit quietly and let you guys run hevoc on streets ....Think Think
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          Ajay Kumar
                          Jul 19, 2016 at 7:49 am
                          This is one sided story dear, your view is only Kashmiri's sided. Ever you think on National level. How India struggling for Kashmir after independence at national and international level, and for what Kashmir hv something special, Kashmir contributions is Zero or in Minus you can say in India. How many non Muslims and security personnel's died in valley just for the personal ambitions of few people who want to rule Kashmir, weather they're separatist or other local political parties. Every one hv their own ambitions that is very different from local Kashmir's problems. The same thing happened in Punjab yrs back when Bhindrawala hv same ambition to make a separate state and self rule in kingdom style. And we all knows what happened after that, thousands of youngsters chose Guns and died with thousands of civilian deaths until the Bhindrawala finished. And now see the same Punjab the richest and prosperous state of India, every one is living peacefully and happily. Same thing happening in Kashmir, only a few people and stan's backing is behind all that chaos. And what you think only Kashmiri's are sentimental and emotional other people living in other states are not emotional, Kashmiri pundit were not emotional??? Now choice in Kashmiri's hands a bullet will answered by bullet and Talk will be answered by Talk. It is your choice that you want to make your children an IAS or a terrorist.and remember nobody or these leaders weather separatist or others children are going to die for Kashmir, they are living luxury life in India or abroad and will become your Leader after their Parents. Jai Hind, Jai Jawan Jai Kisan.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Sirius
                            Jul 19, 2016 at 5:24 am
                            Kashmir is a part of India .
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              Sirius
                              Jul 19, 2016 at 5:45 am
                              You want to keep your land isolated, but want "hearts and minds" to be won ? You don't want to provide rights of property to outsiders, but want investment to come in ? You want India to accept Kashmir as disputed territory , and you want India to love you ?
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                Sirius
                                Jul 19, 2016 at 2:56 pm
                                Right now the facts before me is that (1) stone pelters are running amok (2) 5000 pandit families have taken refuge in Jammu over past week.
                                Reply
                                1. F
                                  Firoz Alam
                                  Jul 19, 2016 at 9:29 am
                                  Prime time news channels know the mindset of their audience. They serve what their buyers want to be served. People of such mindset are under the impression that India belongs only to the people of particular religion. From party to ministers like Katheria did their best to infuse this sentiment among that section of people. In this sense the soil of Kashmir belong to India not its people. The frequent rhetorics ranted by some leaders whoever oppose the idea of Hinduism should go to Pak speaks volumes. Knowingly a divide between communities has been being created for political gain. They might have gained political mileage but it has caused immense irreparable damage to the integrity to India. Media has responsibility to serve the truth without favour and fervour to any particular group or community. The question of national interest lies in national integrity not in certain bigotted ideology which some section of people believe and follow.
                                  Reply
                                  1. J
                                    Jayakumar
                                    Jul 19, 2016 at 7:05 pm
                                    The author is very selective in his discussion. Most of the problem is because of a few people like Gilani and his ilk. Why are people like the author do not talk about that. The civilian casualties are because the young boys are sent forward to face the bullets while the so called leaders sit in their Ac rooms and direct operations. All their children study abroad. How come he he justifies all the antinational activities of these people. lt;br/gt;It is because we have still people like the author who do not have the courage to stop people like Gilani and other groups who support terrorists, that the problem continues and not because of the press.
                                    Reply
                                    1. R
                                      Rajeev
                                      Jul 20, 2016 at 1:42 am
                                      I never understood one thing that what does azadi means , Central govt has control only on three deptts -- armed forces , currency and communication ,lt;br/gt;Rest everything is with embly of JandK under article 370lt;br/gt;What more they want ? Pls tell Mr. Writer
                                      Reply
                                      1. R
                                        Raj
                                        Jul 20, 2016 at 7:17 am
                                        I was puzzled because with a Rs 50,000 monthly ry and a Rs 50 lakh housing loan I was certainly not the best example of a successful Kashmiri youngster.lt;br/gt;-A master statement indeed
                                        Reply
                                        1. S
                                          Saurabh
                                          Jul 19, 2016 at 7:11 am
                                          "Zee News, Times Now, NewsX and Aaj Tak are at the vanguard of a movement that will take India from a dialogical civilisation to a dumb, illogical civilisation" 100% correct
                                          Reply
                                          1. S
                                            SubbuI
                                            Jul 19, 2016 at 10:16 pm
                                            Times TV and it's editor are real villain in these time Arnab will abuse his own father for the TRPlt;br/gt;Now he has become spoke person for Feku and right wing Sanghis. Mr Jain whom we all respect must sack this mad fellow from timeTV and maintain the deginity of the TIMES GROUP
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments