Just before it almost completely blacked out on Kashmir, closed for around a month now, “national interest” was the chief motif of the mainstream media in India as it has always been. With careful use of terms and words, in framing Kashmir and its situation, the media narrative is short, affirmative, dogmatic, top-down and declarative.
Most of Kashmir’s representatives who appear on these TV panels, although they try very hard to put the Kashmir crisis in perspective, have seldom been smart about what these mainstream news channels actually need their appearances for. These channels obviously do not want to listen but tell.
Hosting Kashmiris on primetime news shows is a policy to legitimize these shows as democratic and diverse. “Equal” participation and opportunities of “fair” representation of Kashmir are visually demonstrated with panels usually constituted of two to seven Indians and pro-Indians and one to two Kashmiris.
These channels politely or aggressively censor Kashmir representatives or offend them or pull down the feeder that controls their audio to let other aggressive, or even sensible, Indian and pro-India panelists dominate. If any Kashmiri panelist begins asking, not stating, hard questions – the questions these anchors and their other panelists very well know the answers to but want to hear either a soft, balanced or even confused or entirely different version – he or she will be taken off air or off sight immediately. For the national interest, of course!
And then the use of words, space and time is also expedient. None of these channels would give equal space and time to a video of a shirtless Kashmiri old man, his head bathed in blood, being dragged face down by his neck by a posse of forces, as they would to a video showing a fanatic Hindu mob beating Dalit teenagers in Gujarat for trading the hides of dead animals.
The Kashmir video will clash with the “principle” of national interest. And the Gujarat video falls in the interest of the BJP-Congress debate on who has a record of the maximum religious intolerance in India. The pro-BJP channels will black out both the Kashmir and the Gujarat video.
A 2010 video of a Hindi language news channel is viral on social media these days. In the video, the then opposition leader and now chief minister Mehbooba Mufti hits at the ruling National Conference for “killing unarmed protestors and stone pelters”.
Mehbooba screams: “Their [protestors] voices have been stifled; they are just protesting for a political resolution but treated with force, pellet guns, bullets and pepper gas and brutally killed by the army and police; if these youths would not raise their voices here where else would they?–you should be ashamed of killing your own people so brutally…”
Now recently on another mainstream news channel, in another video, belonging to the current month, the same Mehbooba Mufti – trying to puncture the balloon of the July-Aug 2016 public resistance (the same kind that she endorsed in 2010) – says: “These protestors are brainwashed by Pakistan; they are paid for protesting and pelting stones; these protests won’t work; this violence won’t do; the police and forces kill in self defence only; and the economy of the state is slumping; the children are getting ruined by shutdowns; development of state has stopped…”
None of the channels will carry out a comparative analysis of two contradictory videos belonging to a pro-India politician but will do everything – use special effects and dramatic voice-overs – to rake up muck against the resistance politicians to portray them in a bad light
One resistance-leader-turned-PDP-minister once swore allegiance to Kashmir’s cause of freedom by putting his right hand on the holy Qur’an, in front of mainstream channel reporters (the video is still on social media). Never was the minister criticized by the media because, very obviously, of the “national interest”.
These channels have always prevented Indian audiences from knowing words like colonization, territorial dispute, plebiscite, referendum, occupation, invasion, militarization, human rights violations etc. in the Kashmiri context but only parroted peace, ordinary people, Pakistan, terrorism, terrorist, separatism, security forces, paradise, tourism, Yatra, Dal lake, violence and so on. All for the national interest.
And that leads us logically to a very important question: how is a national interest that determines a selective projection of realities not an immoral and unethical national interest?
And how do minds that brag about openness, a liberal outlook and considerateness, close on some logical questions/responses? There are certain questions Kashmiris have been silenced from asking in response to the above media framing of the Kashmir situation. Here, I am juxtaposing the Indian mainstream media framing of Kashmir with the responsive Kashmiri narrative, in bold type:
1. Kashmir is a land of “ordinary”, “prim” people who always vote in elections to demonstrate that the Valley is an integral part of India.
In the coverage of elections in Kashmir, in all the recorded and published statements of the pro-India political parties, contestant candidates and their manifestoes, in all the voters’ interviews, the principal point that still can be garnered is that “the voting shall not affect the nature of the political dispute Kashmir is” or “voting has nothing to do with Kashmir issue” or “voting is just to elect representatives for local governance, for day to day needs”. Hence how can voting be interpreted as referendum but not a month-long protest in Kashmir for independence?
2. A few separatists funded by Pakistan and some miscreants indoctrinate the ordinary Kashmiri to create trouble and impede development of the state.
Are Kashmiris, exclusively in whole world, the only innocent, ignoble, foolish and “ordinary” people that they will always let themselves be indoctrinated by anyone or any country on their political aspirations and decisions? If Kashmiris were politically foolish why would they vehemently reject Musharraf’s four-point formula and many such policies of Pakistan on Kashmir?
3. More and more Kashmiris are coming into the Indian mainstream. Many Kashmiri youths are joining the Indian Civil Service.
Did Subhash Chandra Bose, Qudratullah Shahaab and numerous other Indian freedom-fighting leaders, who went from British India to crack the Indian Civil Service in London, declare that they had entered the British mainstream by doing that?
4. Those so-called representatives of Kashmir who travel on Indian passports must either renounce the passport facility or migrate to Pakistan.
Gandhi had a British-Indian passport even until he went for the last round table conference to London. Scans and pictures of his passport and travel documents from the archives are still available in Google images. In those documents he figures as “the protected subject of British India”. Should Gandhi too have been asked by the British to renounce the British-authority passport before crossing the port to talk about Poorna Swaraj (Complete Self-rule)?
5. India is investing package after package for infrastructure development in the Valley.
Why didn’t Indians dismantle the infrastructural development, the buildings and railway lines constructed by the British throughout India, as a mark of protest rather than own them and still utilize them as colonial legacy?
6. The security forces deployed in Kashmir are saviours of Kashmiris.
If Indian army is a security force and a saviour of Kashmiris, would that then mean that 90,000 Kashmiris who died in the last twenty-seven years actually died by killing each other for some foolish sport?
The Indian polity, mainstream media and intelligentsia very clearly understand the simple logic: that just as Indians were a different race from the British, so are Kashmiris from India. If Bhaghat Singh, Sukhdev, Raj Guru and many others can be worshipped as heroes of armed resistance of India against the British, so can the Burhan Wanis and Ishfaq Majeeds of Kashmir be, viz-a-viz India.
The Article First Appeared HERE
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