The Indian media boasts an illustrious history. Born under the British rule, it quickly mastered the rules of the game, working around the stiff curbs and acute sensitivities of colonial masters.
If the Independence movement saw popular newspapers provide intellectual leadership and direction to the country, the post-independence era saw them really thrive, mirroring the aspirations and dreams of a young nation.
Except for the dark interregnum of Indira Gandhis Emergency when in the words of Advani it chose to crawl when told to bend, the Indian media has been fiercely independent. Never shying away from speaking truth to power, it has jealously guarded its independence under successive governments.
My former paper Indian Express has by far been the most fearless of them all, perpetually defying the government of the day with its brilliant reportage, incisive commentary and historic investigative stories. Bringing down governments with some of its exposes, the Express defiantly printed blank sheets in place of the editorial when told to submit it to government scrutiny during the Emergency!
I wonder what happens to this celebrated independent streak of the Indian media when dealing with the conundrum called Kashmir. Except for a few stray, courageous voices, most journalists lose their mojo as they obsequiously toe the official narrative and line of the security state.
While issues of human rights violations and humanitarian suffering elsewhere in the country are promptly and enthusiastically reported and played out a zillion times in 24/7 media, they are swallowed up by a cold silence of indifference and apathy when similar things happen in Kashmir. Worse still, they are portrayed as a grand Pakistan plot to sow seeds of strife in Kashmir and tear it away from the unwilling hands of mother India.
If only Indian journalists were able to see Kashmir not as a territory with a predominantly Muslim majority claimed and obsessed over by Pakistan but as people of flesh and blood like us, would we still be so indifferent and insensitive to their predicament and appalling humanitarian tragedy that is Kashmir?
Between 1989 and 2011 alone there have been more than 8,000 documented disappearances and at least 80,000 Kashmiri deaths. Then there are those thousands of half widows who do not know whether to wait for their missing husbands or mourn them.
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