Kashmir’s got Talent!

WHILE SPEAKING to Martin Ney, the German ambassador to India Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called upon the international community to recognise the huge potential and talent of the youth of J&K. What Ms Mehbooba has said isn’t a hollow claim and the proof of this is that 15 Kashmiri students have ‘cracked’ the all India JEE (Mains) exams this year. This is no mean achievement since more than 15 lac aspirants from all over the country appear for this joint entrance exam that opens the doors to the most prestigious engineering colleges in India. What is even more impressive is that these 15 were out of the 26 candidates trained in the Kashmir Super 30 Engineering Coaching Programme. 

With a success rate of 58 percent this non commercial coaching programme has surpassed all other well known and established coaching centers. Though this achievement has found mention in the local newspapers but regrettably no publishing house has endeavoured to highlight this spectacular and historic achievement of our youth which should make every Kashmiri’s heart swell with pride. Furthermore, none of the successful aspirants have been interviewed by the media and because of this no details of their struggle and the sacrifices made by their parents are known to the people. Such details motivate others to work hard despite all odds and serve as a source of inspiration for others to emulate and do better in life. By doing so, the local media has failed in its social responsibility! 

I may be wrong but the only reason as to why the otherwise exceptionally creative and talented scribes in the Valley have ‘killed’ a marvelous story could be because it has an army ‘angle’ to it. The idea of starting the Kashmir Super 30 Engineering Coaching programme is that of the army which has secured the services of the Center for Social Responsibility and Leadership (CSRL) to implement this initiative. Could it be likely that the local media intentionally avoided interviewing the successful candidates as they apprehended that they may say something that would in some way amount to ‘praising’ the army? Today the pro-Pakistan lobby is greatly upset with the Handwara girl who while deposing before a judicial magistrate has stood by her initial statement that she was not molested by any army man. At such a time and when the JKCCS is leading a full-fledged and no holds barred charge against the army, the local media may have considered it inopportune to publish anything that spoke well about the army. 

If this hunch of mine is right then it is not a healthy sign. We often complain about the partisan role of the Indian media houses on Kashmir related matters. The most recent spate of such criticism started with the allegation that the national media had overplayed the role of security forces in rescue and relief activities during the floods. Even when the army lauded the role of the locals especially the youth in rescue efforts the local media did not relent and continued to accuse the army of using the floods to bolster its own image. Some sections of the media even went about linking incidents of stone pelting on army relief convoys and helicopters on rescue missions as a sign of local dissatisfaction against the army and due to this it was the local media that showed symptoms of bias in reporting.

The media in J&K is working under very difficult and trying conditions and it would therefore be unfair to expect the scribes to be as forthright as one would expect them to be. However, it would be absolutely wrong to surmise that the entire local media in Kashmir is biased. Despite the hazards involved there are publishing houses that give more or less evenly balanced views and it is not uncommon to find editorials and pieces in these dailies that expose the wrongdoings of the security forces as well as those of the separatists and militants. The public too needs to understand that the media is duty bound to religiously adhere to its professional ethics of publishing both sides of a story even if it is not appreciated by some segment of society. Besides this, the media also has a major social responsibility towards the betterment of the people and in doing so it cannot be selective and requires coming out with stories, ideas and opinions that though unpalatable to some make excellent food for thought. 

The separatist camp may be against initiatives like Sadbhavana tours and possibly even the Kashmir Super 30 Engineering Coaching programme. However to dissuade our own children from availing facilities that provide an opportunity to the less privileged to improve their perspective and do better in life, just because they are being sponsored by the army, is unfair. Those who vehemently oppose such programmes may not realise the worth of the same as they have the means to ensure that their own children get good education and are well settled. Therefore there is a need for the media to impress upon those who are against Sadbhavana programmes to delink this educational and social upliftment initiative from the ‘azadi’ campaign. Those who see the army as fiends need to be reminded of the old adage that, ‘even the Devil must be given his due’! 


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