For the popular Indian imagination on Kashmir across India, the land Kashmir acquires more importance than the people Kashmiri. That is how while the land gets adored for its natural beauty, the people Kashmiris are less appreciated. While the travelogues in media start showing the beauty of the land, the same media when it comes to political reporting constructs an imagination of Kashmiris as ‘violent, terrorists, militants, jehadis, anti-nationals, unpatriotic, pro-pakistainis’ etc. Building on this logic they further convince the Indian news audience that to deal with Kashmiris who are synonymous with terrorists, presence of large paramilitary forces, encounters (fake or real), killings, human rights violations, rapes, special powers to military are just fair. It is to clean Kashmir from the Kashmiris and make it a beautiful place. It is only to create a paradise.
To the Indian audience who get impressed by the beauty of the land fail to take note of the fact that there is a beauty in Kashmiri people who adore Kashmiriyat. Kashmiriyat is neither anti-Indian nor pro-Paksitani thinking but an identity by itself. While the political elite in India keep lecturing on mainstreaming of Kashmiris with India and appealing them for the same, the mainstream Indian audience only keeps itself distancing away and disconnected from the Kashmiri emotions, concerns, worries and aspirations.
With complete disconnection with the Kashimiri emotions even in times of peace, the media keeps mis-reporting that things are getting normalized. Peace is returning back to the normal. Elections are being held. Militancy has come down. Indian audience gets convinced that the Kashmiris as people are improving and have started appreciating peace. They are giving up terrorism and getting mainstreamed. They have started developing nationalism and started loving India. They are never aware of the fact that India too has been violent towards them. Reports of human rights violations never make a news report in mainstream media.
When events such as mass protests in Kashimir break out as is presently happening, the Indian audience starts getting concerned as to what is happening. The media represented by Arnabs, Sudheer Chowdharys jump down in such situations and start lecturing on what is nationalism, what it means to be a nationalist. They start blaming the Kashmiris for their reaction to the death of a ‘terrorist’. Discussions are held in a manner which tries to build the argument that it is fair to kill a ‘terrorist’. Kashmiris are blamed for showing up their protests. The media discussions never question what is driving the protestors to turn up in such large numbers. A simplified argument is put forward that is just because of a ‘foreign hand’, as if Kashmiris do not have a mind of their own. Even in turbulent times, the Indian audience remains disconnected of ofKashmiri emotions.
Lot of facts gets hidden from the Indian audience related to political history of Kashmir, the injustices undergone by them, Article 370, special status and disrespect for autonomy, disrespect for kashmir leaders, rigging of elections etc. Indian audience is convinced that things started getting bad in Kashmir only in late 1980’s with the involvement of foreign hand. Indian contribution to what alienated the people of Kashmir is never debated.
Everything is turned down into an India-Pakistan cricket match, where Kashmiris mean nothing. Kashmiris are reduced to just a game of cricket which either India or Pakistan have to win. A game is not human and has no emotions and hence can be ignored. So goes the argument and this is what is happening with Kashmiris. Indian audience continues to see an irrationality in Kashmiri behavior but not themselves.
About the Author: Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Centre for Poltical Studies in JNU. He does not have any direct connection with Kashmir issue or an authority on Kashmir issue. This article is based on impressions and an attempt at understanding the issue.