On most Indian news channels at prime time, one may find comedy, drama, action, political propaganda, advertisements, war rhetoric and what not. Be it ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’, dramas of Star Plus or Colours, dance shows like ‘Natch baliye’ etc, Bollywood gossip, funny news like presence of ghosts or treasures somewhere, noise of pseudo analysts, furious debates (where most anchors are not ready to listen for more than 15 seconds) etc, all such stuff is news for Indian electronic media but not the plight of Kashmiries. “52 days long continuous curfew, 72 days continuous protests, extreme suppression, 86 deaths, around 13000 injured, around 800 hit in eyes, thousands jailed, political chocking, night raids, deserted days, wailing mothers, worried fathers, angry brothers, fearful sisters and anxious children”, does not find any place on Indian prime time news.
Although ‘Kashmir’ is being debated from time to time but not for the sake of understanding of the issue or empathy with Kashmiries but with the objective to make the common people of India believe, that whatever is happening in Kashmir, is Pak sponsored and all those talking about the right of Kashmiries for self determination, are enemies, traitors and antinational. Most of the so called patriotic and nationalistic Indian news channels either go for selective, biased and pro-government reporting of events here or tend to ignore Kashmir completely. Any debate or discussion regarding Kashmir on Indian media seem less for enlightenment, understanding or information and more for so called nationalism. The debates are conducted in such a manner as if an ‘on air’ war is being fought and the enemy has to be defeated. Most of the anchors on Indian news channels do not want to listen to any dissenting voice on Kashmir. They adopt a well defined strategy on such topics. First of all, more than adequate number of panellists is invited and their number is always tilted towards Indian nationalism. Then they tend to ask ‘leading questions’ to panellists in order to take the show in the direction they want to. Further, the panellists discussing Kashmir are mostly non-Kashmiries. Many instances are there when a panellist from Kashmir was invited though, but then, directed beforehand not to make a pro-freedom and anti India statement. Whenever the nationalistic anchors find anyone expressing a dissenting opinion, they frequently interrupt him/her or let other panellists to interrupt him/her or tend to give that person very less time or simply mute his/her voice. Many times the news anchors tend to raise a counter issue in order to neutralise the Kashmir issue. Chemical sciences claim that acids tend to neutralise bases and bases tend to neutralise acids, but it must be understood that the same cannot be applied to international conflicts. The human rights violations in Baluchistan cannot neutralise the human rights violations in Kashmir. India is responsible for it’s deeds in Kashmir and Pakistan is responsible for it’s deeds in Baluchistan. The two issues are not similar or equal in any way and cannot neutralise each other.
Indian media needs to understand that every “Prime Time Show” regarding Kashmir generates further resentment in the hearts of Kashmiries. Such “Shows” make us believe that India does not feel our pain, is not concerned about our sufferings, does not respect our rights, does not want to fulfil it’s promises, and is not committed to bring peace, provide free and democratic environment to the people of Kashmir. Such media is discriminative, aggressive, immoral and unethical and should be considered equally responsible for the present situation in Kashmir.
There are certain facts with regard to Kashmir which Indian media cannot escape from. The facts may be uncomfortable for them, but then facts need to be accepted honestly. Denial and distortion of facts will help nobody. People cannot be kept in dark for long. Media should not act as drum beaters only but it also needs to help in the solution of problems. Though being pro-government may help the business of certain news channels but media has a huge responsibility with regard to both society and humanity. Nationalism does mean love and patriotic feelings for one’s nation, but it certainly does not mean hatred for other nations or inhumane suppression of people struggling for freedom or being a mute spectator to such suppression. Above all justifying such suppression is criminal. What is unfortunate is that being one of the pillars of democracy, Indian media (particularly electronic media) has become an agent of propaganda, appeasement of government, politics, advertisement, war rhetoric and what not. Media is also an important agent of social change and thus it needs to work towards making the world a better place to live. That is only possible when it will convey the truth, even if that truth may be bitter. Media has to be the voice of voiceless and oppressed and not that of oppressor.
Only selfless, honest, unbiased, ethical and humanistic journalism can help in the solution of regional and world conflicts and thus pave a way for peaceful and prosperous South Asia and World at large. Before being nationalistic, Indian media needs to be humanistic. Any nationalism cannot exceed humanism.
Imran Khan: M.Phil-Psychology, Previously worked as “Psychologist” in Action Aid International, Medicines Sans Frontiers, J&K Police Drug De-addiction Services and as Project Assistant Capacity Building in Department of Social Work Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.