With one more upsurge putting Kashmir in spotlight, sections of the Indian media are again doing what they do best: spew out a barrage of the stories geared to distort than lend clarity to what is happening in the state. If most television news channels are to be believed, the ongoing unrest in Kashmir has been manufactured to the point of the minutest actions of the each protester: for example, which body parts to move, which facial expressions to show and which slogans to shout. Even the list of the government and the security targets to be targeted. No, the plan wasnt drawn up in a rush. The TV channels knew better. The elements were ready for the contingency of Burhans death. Every move was planned and planned far better than the security agencies which didnt know how to handle the fallout of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wanis killing.
Another dominant media discourse was about the safety of the pilgrims going for Amarnath yatra. And third, you guessed it right, was the involvement of Pakistan. The neighbouring country together with the local instigators is driving the current revolt in Valley. The news debates by constantly conducting debate along these lines of discourse have pushed the ongoing deaths, injuries and their fallout into the background. Few people in India seem to be bothered about the killings in Kashmir. Far fewer about the loss of eye-sight in one or both eyes by the scores of youth majority of them teenagers.
Little to no attention is being paid to the trigger-happiness of the security forces by the electronic media. No broadcast of the videos of the bereaved relatives, or the distraught parents. No strident discussions slamming the role of the paramilitary forces. No talk of the arrest of the soldiers. Nothing.
This once again exposes the in-your-face double-standards practised by a predominant section of the broadcast media. Their outrage is selective and generally dictated by the TRPs and to put it bluntly by a very communal and nationalistic outlook. This is such a tragic state of affairs for the media. What it shows is that the news and the outrage in India follows an implicit hierarchy: it merits playing up only when the news and the outrage is politically correct and fits the narrow ideological framework of todays India.
There is no idea as to how pernicious the fallout of these debates can be. One, they turn Kashmiri youth into some kind of homogenous entity and paint them as the other. The debates also build a hateful stereotype of Kashmiri youth in the rest of India and create an anti-Kashmiri sentiment. This media stereotyping of Kashmiris in turn leaves some imprint on the central government policy about the state too. The governments dont want to be perceived to be appeasing Kashmiris. The harsh policy measures to deal with the state are welcomed and a constructive engagement is opposed. Over the years, this approach has further alienated Kashmiris, thereby creating a vicious circle. Both New Delhi and Kashmir Valley now deal with the stereotypes of each other than the complex realities as they exist on the ground. But this needs to change. And it is incumbent on the media to present a correct picture of the state.
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