One-sided coverage

BY sevanti ninan| IN Opinion | 31/08/2008
In spite of the massive coverage in recent times, the point of view of the Kashmiris hasn’t found a voice in the media.
SEVANTI NINAN on the mainstream media’s solution mongering.

                 Reprinted from the Hindu, August 31, 2008.

 

 

Arundhati Roy, who, like Arun Shourie, needs a lot of space to have her say, argues over seven pages in Outlook that the continued military occupation of Kashmir must stop, and that we have there a State whose younger generation has been "raised in a playground of army camps, checkposts and bunkers, with screams of torture chambers for a sound track".

 

Vir Sanghvi and Swaminathan Aiyar assert in columns in the Hindustan Times and Times of India, after citing different sets of reasons, that the time has come to give Kashmiris the right to self-determination.

 

On Times Now, on prime time over two days, Arnab Goswami celebrates the patriotism of soldiers who have given their lives for Kashmir. On the day of his funeral, two children of an army officer are put on air to tell the channel’s viewers about their father, with Goswami goading them on. "Are you proud of your father, what would you like to tell people on our show today?" he asks the 11-year-old son. The next evening there is a special report, titled We love Kashmir Too, talking to the families of those officers who have lost their lives in Kashmir.

 

Voice of India

 

At the end, Sajjad Lone of the Peoples Conference is pitted against two elderly former officers. One of them voices the sentiment that India cannot leave Kashmir after it has been part of the country for 60 years, extremism etc. is all wrong, and "we are all brothers". Says Goswami: "Sajjad this is the voice of India, it is very easy to have a TV debate where you pit people against one another (Hinting at Barkha’s Dutt’s show, is he?). This is the voice, Sajjad. You have talked about the sentiments of the people of Kashmir, what about these two, Sajjad."

 

Sajjad says, in Kupwara there is a village of 250 widows in a population of 5,000. That is also the voice of Kashmir. If these men have been killed, the question that should be asked is, how can we trust the people of India? Whereupon, one of the two other men on the show says he has been supporting an orphan girl in Kashmir. Lone says that is gracious of him, but people from all over the world are supporting orphans in Kashmir.

 

Later in the show, Goswami displays more sanctimonious nationalism. Accusing Lone of trusting Rawalapindi more than Delhi, saying at some point that this sort of intolerance happens only in Pakistan while referring to what happened to Mojahirs. To which the PC leader says, if you talk of Mojahirs, I can talk of Gujarat and hundreds of communal riots here in last 15 years. Arnab Goswami then gives the last word to Colonel Kanwar, who says to Lone, "We want to be living happily with you", meaning Kashmiris. Off and on Times Now has been talking of winning hearts in Kashmir. They are certainly going about it the right way!

 

While all of this liberal, upper middle-class solution-mongering is going on, local TV stations in Kashmir are stopped from broadcasting news by a judge’s order. One day the local newspaper, Greater Kashmir, fails to come out on account of the curfew. Other newspapers are similarly affected. On a single day, 13 journalists and photographers are beaten by the police in Srinagar. Curfew passes given earlier, they discover, are no longer valid.

 

On television there are many, many shots of mass turnouts in the Valley for rallies and protests, but curiously no vox populi soundbites from those crowds. When Kuldip Nayyar says on Times Now, "What do they mean by azadi we should talk to them and find out. To whom do we give? On that side there is no stable government," you are reminded that for all the coverage we are not hearing at all from the people milling on the streets of Srinagar.

 

Slanted view

 

Why not? An Outlook reporter in Kashmir says OB vans are not taken to cover the large protests because the crowd attacks Indian TV crews, and the Kashmiri journalists working for them. Syed Ali Shah Geelani describes them in his speeches as being part of the Indian war machinery. He told the magazine for good measure, "it is pointless talking to Indian journalists… they have their national interest and a Hindu point of view." On Doordarshan meanwhile there is little coverage of the protests which the other channels are showing. On the day of the march to the U.N. office, DD simply blacked out the event.

 

If the media in India reflects the country’s exasperation with Kashmir, they are freer to do so than the media, Indian or Kashmiri, are in Kashmir to reflect what people there are thinking. The exception is a few blogs. On http://kashmir-truth-be-told.blogspot.com/ scroll down and read a series of posts in which a young person who describes himself (herself?) as being from rural Kashmir, agonises over the pros and cons of the options a referendum would present.

 

Behind the sloganeering Kashmiris do as a reflex action whenever there are TV cameras around, there are a people crying to be understood. Ignoring that does not help.

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