Rage To Rare: Is Kashmir’s Primetime Pitch Fading?


Otherwise a routine subject of discussion and din, Kashmir has now become less of a focal point in national televised debates.

By Rhys Gonsalves

KASHMIR has ceased to be a ‘hot pursuit’ for the mainland media amid the new confrontations and corporate crunches in the Indian subcontinent from the last two years.

While the change has apparently alleviated anxiety in the living rooms of the valley, it has put limelight on the newsroom tone and tenor.

This sweeping media change is being noted, among others, by Vipin Pubby, a former Resident Editor of Indian Express.

Unlike the pre-Article 370 abrogation days, Pubby says, Kashmir is no longer a primetime debate for the news channels of Noida — the address of the contemporary media corp in India.

“The obsession of Kashmir is becoming lesser in the country now,” says Pubby, a veteran with over four decades in journalism.

“But some Kashmir discussions are still being fuelled by the region’s protracted problem, but they aren’t as belligerent broadcasts as they used to be.”

Unlike the earlier “right-wing ruckus”, creating the comment-war on social media, the contemporary debates don’t seem to accommodate Kashmir much.

Many media watchers from Delhi to Srinagar call it a shifted strategy.

“But more than a strategy, it’s about a situation,” says Majid Hyderi, one of the regular primetime faces from Kashmir.

“Kashmir has become less of a topic of discussion in the last two years as the situation on the ground has improved. I rarely see debates on Kashmir now, except when there’s a targeted killing or something similar.”

Previously, the scribe-cum-analyst says, there used to be a debate on Kashmir every evening, but that has stopped now.

“Since the situation has improved in terms of violence,” Hyderi says, “there isn’t much to debate now.”

Unlike Hyderi who links the change with the ‘improved’ ground situation, many analysts believe that Kashmir’s primetime fading comes from a new political posturing.

“For BJP and allied parties,” says a senior Kashmiri analyst, “the pugnacious TV debates suit as long as they serve their political objectives. With Article 370 dusted and the regional political camp disempowered, the TV talks on Kashmir have lost their relevance for the ruling camp and their mouthpieces. At the same time, the pressing governance issues, be it on bulldozers, property tax or jobs, hardly qualify for the primetime discussion.”

While there might be a furtive factor behind the change, Peer Viqar UI Aslam says, the lost primetime slot is directly connected with the fractured political landscape of the valley.

“Otherwise anything associated with Kashmir is of utmost importance to the Indian public,” says Viqar, another primetime debater from Kashmir. “The media exploits this to gain support for the government and momentum, but it isn’t happening in case of Kashmir at the moment.”

But as a hot topic, Akhter Bhatt says, Kashmir will always be played up by the ‘political media’ to outdo each other in the TRP race.

“Forget the contemporary coverage curtailment, there’s always this link between political parties and media outlets for agenda setting,” says Bhatt, a political activist.

“Both the media and political parties use the fact that the majority in India aren’t a media-literate audience. While they won’t talk about how the situation is affecting the normal life in Kashmir, they will surely amplify the political problem and label the entire community.”

Way Forward

But beyond this primetime issue, Pubby says, media channels should refrain from inviting polemic party spokespersons in debates to restore some sanity in living rooms across the country.

“They should include people who understand the valley’s issues in depth and detail,” he says. “Rather than drama, the experts should be engaged in well-meaning discussions.”

At the same time, says Vikar, there should be more alternative sustainable news outlets in India that cover the news without bias. “On the larger platform,” he says, “an alternate voice is required.”

And to keep the primetime din in check and balance, Bhatt says, the media must serve as mediators and maintain a balanced approach on a sensitive subject like Kashmir.

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