Electronic Media: Milking Kashmir situation for their benefit

Kashmir suffered immensely on account of the militancy that erupted in the valley in 1990 and continued through most of that decade. In the first decade of the 21st century, the political violence reduced substantially with the State going to polls, first in 1996 and then at stipulated intervals in 2002, 2008 and 2014. Over the years, the public participation in these elections has increased manifold. Kashmir has suffered immensely because of the unstable political situation in the valley and people want to return to a life of safety, normalcy and dignity. It is ironic that the mainstream Indian media, more so the TV news channels, leave no opportunity to trumpet the return of ‘’peace and normalcy’’ to the valley when people participate in the elections and come out in significant numbers to vote or when tourists start visiting the valley. But the moment a small group of people raise an ISIS flag or a Pakistani flag in the valley, the same media uses this opportunity to berate Kashmiris for being ‘’anti national’’ and such insignificant incidents are used to reinforce the hawkish stance that the security establishment within India has taken, when it comes to dealing with the situation in Kashmir. The TV channels whip up so much nationalistic frenzy to showcase that the valley is not yet ready for any kind of relaxation in dreaded legislation like ASFPA which gives the security forces and the army in Kashmir a free hand, without any accountability, to counter the situation in the State. Over the years, many politicians and civil rights groups have tried to impress upon the central government that the situation in the valley has improved enough for this draconian law to be repealed completely. But despite the visible improvement on the ground in Kashmir valley, the Govt in Delhi and the security establishment has shown complete indifference and insensitivity to the issue of rolling back ASFPA.

The continued application of AFSPA in J and K has come at a huge cost to the people of the valley, with common people still bearing the brunt of unaccountable security forces. Successive State Govts and media in Delhi have also highlighted the return of tourists in big numbers to the valley a return of normalcy to the valley and have often sold this as an argument of the success of Indian policy in the valley. But the same media uses trivial issues like the raising of an ISIS flag in some corner of the valley to deny the people of the valley a return to more humane polity, where there is no place for draconian laws like ASFPA. Such situations are also used to create a stereotype about Kashmiris and whip up frenzy against them in rest of India. Given the kind of shift that has happened in the Indian political scene over the last few years, this jingoistic gesturing by the TV channels in India may get them higher TRPs, but it will be counterproductive for the return of stability and normalcy to the valley. It is time Indian TV news media stopped providing fuel to the sense of alienation and igniting passions in the valley.

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