Monday, July 25, 2016

Jammu & Kashmir : Reckless 'Reality'

The reality can sometimes be subjective but the job of the media is to present it in the most possible objective manner. To do this job media is guaranteed with freedom of speech and expression. The forth pillar term is not just a rhetoric but brings a lot of responsibility to media houses. Unfortunately, with growing space and activism through media this basic responsibility is missed out, especially when it comes to the coverage of sensitive issues like Jammu and Kashmir. The worst part is whole media is divided as ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ as if it is also a party in the issue. In this context, there is a need to scrutinise and calibrate media reporting by the local and national media.

Partisan Approach or Restoration of Peace
The Hurriyat Conference, which is a conglomeration of more than seven groups states its prime objective as ‘to wage a peaceful struggle to secure for the people of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the UN Charter and the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council’. As this group does not believe in democratic process and Constitution of India, one cannot expect them to follow the letter and spirit of their own objective. They will instigate violence and will get disturbed by the normalcy. They will throw the facts out of contexts and play politics on the deaths of innocents. The question is can media, in J&K or in Delhi, afford to follow their narrative without any scrutiny.   

Jammu Kashmir is one of the most literate states in India with 70 per cent its population gets influenced by what is being discussed and published in media. No wonder, Kashmir division alone has 31 English and 59 Urdu registered dailies. All of them are recognised by the government and get most of their advertisement revenue from the State. Naturally, one of the basic guidelines of the Press Council of India that ‘violence not to be glorified’—Newspapers/journalists shall avoid presenting acts of violence, armed robberies and terrorist activities in a manner that glorifies the perpetrators on their acts, declarations or death in the eyes of the public – is applicable to them. Unfortunately, the coverage media does not indicate any spirit in this direction.
Brand Burhan and Aftermath
If we look at some of the headlines, most Valley-based papers reported a massive outburst of support for Burhan all over the State. One of the first articles published in Greater Kashmir after Burhan was killed titled with ‘I will avenge this beating’: Burhan was face of new-age militancy in Kashmir. This speaks of how he turned to militancy after beating by security forces to his brother, Khalid. The article describes Burhan as a “sharp”, “loving” boy born to an affluent Jama’at-e-Islami family. As the protests in the Valley gathered force, however, Kashmiri newspapers devoted their front pages to the outburst of support witnessed in the Valley and the crackdown by security forces.
Printed in red letters at the top of the Greater Kashmir’s Sunday front page was a single word: Burhaaaaaaan…

Being competitive like any other media, other dailies did not shy away in glorified reporting about the terrorists. Rising Kashmir spoke of civilian deaths as “Kashmir bleeds and burns” and resided on the “unprecedented farewell” for Wani in Tral, while The Kashmir Monitor talked of the thousands who “bid adieu to ‘Commander Burhan’ ”. Greater Kashmir — with the headline “Shooting to Kill?” — reported that doctors in Srinagar hospitals said a number of people were losing their lives owing to injuries on “vital organs, vessels or head”. Rising Kashmir went with the headline: “Bullets fired to kill not to control protesters”. The Jammu-based Kashmir Times struck a careful balance, noting how “normal life” was “paralysed” by curfews, prohibitory restrictions as well as strikes. It also mentioned 96 cops being injured along with 200 protesters. Even the space that was provided by these newspapers on opinion pages is not immune from this. Through a lead article, an author no less than former Director General Tourism in the State says that “Kashmiris have been oppressed, degraded, humiliated by outside oppressors for centuries. There have been many uprisings in the past but these were harshly put down.” He further warns that free expression and dialogue is the only way to arrest the Tsunami. In the alternative, it may ultimately engulf not only the sub-continent but the entire South Asia.  The Urdu media is further instigating and more obsessed with Pakistan and the Islamic world. 

Now, all these reports may not report blatant lies. Some of them might be representing sentiments of some sections of people in the Valley, but certainly not objective and definitely glorifying a terrorist and inciting a violence. They do not narrate the fact about police stations and CRPF camps being attacked by militant groups. Hundreds of weapons are being looted and a police vehicle was pushed in the Jhelum, then only police had to use pellat guns. These guns are used by the State police, which is very much constituted by the same ‘Kashmiris’, but they are called as forces. The binaries of secular and Islamists or mainstream and resistance are denied subtly through reports. The mob attack on migrant camps at Haal Pulwama, Vessu and Mattan in Anantnag district of South Kashmir and heroic act of Jammu Kashmir Police in saving the minority population hardly found space in the local media.  The fact that sporadic violence is limited to some parts of 3-4 districts of the Valley is not told. Many people on the street and business community are terrorised and just waiting somebody to defy the bandh called by the separatists is not reported. 
This is not the first time Kashmir media is trying to present a onesided picture. One cannot help but feel that they apply different set of rules for different people and their agendas are based on deeply entrenched vested interests.
The manner in which the Kashmir media covered this martyrdom of Rifleman Tariq Ahmed Lone and Rifleman Waseem Ahmad Lone was also quite disappointing. Here were two local heroes who had laid down their lives while guarding their own people and the local media chose to ignore the great sacrifice.
Most of the Kashmir based newspapers carried terse two paragraph news stories on the incident and no more.
As defence expert Col Jaibans Singh says, undoubtedly, there is a media set up in the Kashmir valley that caters to the secessionist and divisive forces. These very newspapers give voluminous space to the killing of terrorists as was seen just a few days back when Abu Qasim, a foreign terrorist of the Lashkar-e-Toiba  (LeT), was killed. Abu Qasim was a criminal and a sadistic killer who had the blood of many innocent Kashmiri civilians on his hands. Despite his criminality, he was glorified by the Kashmir media. Some vested interests collected a large crowd for his funeral which was religiously reported by all Kashmir based newspapers. 

The Hidden Side
On the Burhan issue when Kashmiri media was busy making hero out of him, a prominent exiled Kashmiri leader Nasir Aziz Khan said that alleged that Pakistan waged a proxy war in Kashmir since 1998 and had been using the religious sentiment of the Kashmiri people, adding that slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was also part of that war. “Kashmiris are pro-peace and peace loving people and they believe in peace and harmony. If we look into history, 4000-6000 years ago, Kashmiris whether they were Hindus and Muslims, they were living with peace and harmony. But unfortunately since 1998, Pakistan has started a proxy war in Kashmir, are using the religious sentiment of the Kashmiri people and Mr. Burhan Wani was also part of that movement — I mean the proxy war of Pakistan,” Khan said issue. Fortunately, a national news paper carried this news prominently.  

One of the often cited sources when it comes to injuries is someone from Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital.  According to a local source the entry of injured is scrutinised by the terrorising mob, entry of reporting personal is subjective and certain celebrity reporters, believed to be ‘pro’ are only allowed to speak to the injured. Unfortunately the so-called national media do not have a much footprint in the Valley. Local news circulation and reporting is done at the behest of separatists. The obvious outcome is either to rely on separatist controlled news reports or on the other extreme only give the police or State version.  

In another incident, from where the police started taking action on the stone-pelting mob, a police station was attacked and more than 39 guns have been looted by mob from a police station in south Kashmir. For three consecutive days, militants attacked security forces taking advantage of the law and order situation in the valley. The latest incident took place in the apple-rich township of Sopore where militants fired at a police post in Warpora. If Kashmir media would have reported on the same, then they would have done their job of objective reporting. 

There are many incidences of, especially in the Pakistan Occupied region of Jammu and Kashmir, protests are also taking place sporadically, but the local media undermine these stories. The human rights violations in Baluchistan never find space in Kashmir media. That gives wrong impression about Pakistan and so called ‘Azadi’.

 This crisis actually represents not only the credibility of media but larger issue of need for credible institution building in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This was not allowed by the vested interests from within and outside. They have built up the narrative on legally and morally false grounds. The change can come only from the ground and media can play a constructive role in the same, if they are really want to be the protectors of ‘Kashmiri’ interests and not the interests of people who have captured the Kashmiris in the cycle of violence.

"Sabhar from The organiser"           

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