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Kashmir: Listen, See And Say Unpleasant Too!

By Raouf Rasool

16 March, 2013

One day – two incidents, and two narratives by two peoples! This is how one could describe Wednesday March 13, 2013, which saw situation in Kashmir coming back to the proverbial square-one. Marking the re-emergence of Fidayeen or suicide attacks here, a detachment of paramilitary CRPF was attacked by Hizbul Mujahideen militants at Bemina, killing five soldiers and injuring many others. Apparently angry at the death and injury of their colleagues, a group of CRPF personnel later dropped dead an innocent civilian near Zoonimar in Srinagar downtown. As always happens– while Indian media shouted hard for the slain CRPF personnel, life of an innocent Kashmiri who fell to the unbridled rage of the same force seemed to matter too little. Situation was no different within Kashmir either. Here, it was the killing of the innocent civilian which dominated the discourse while that of paramilitary men remained a non-issue. …and thus selective mourning and selective condemnations continued yet again.

In the evening, almost all mainstream television channels dedicated their primetime shows to discussing what had happened. As already mentioned, the Kashmiri civilian who died during the day figured nowhere. Slain CRPF soldiers remained in focus as did the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) with news anchors and Delhi-based Kashmir and security “experts”, whose skins are rarely touched by the controversial law, and who surely have no idea what it means to live in a disturbed area, shouting at very high decibels that the act must stay. For these undesignated but willing PR volunteers of defence establishment, shouting down every sane and dispassionate voice from within Kashmir, even if it is that of Delhi’s own ‘extensions’ in the Valley, is the only way of serving the so-called national interests. So when one such over-enthusiastic news anchor belligerently cornered some Kashmiri politicians asking why nobody in Kashmir was protesting the killing of the CRPF men, one couldn’t help but laugh at this lack of simple common sense.

Indeed the reasons why nobody in Kashmir protested (or protests) the killing of CRPF (or any other forces’) personnel is what lies at the heart of the problem. It needs to be deconstructed to know what plagues the relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi. So this question must have been asked to the ‘experts’ representing the Indian armed forces in the show. Those long-mustached retired colonels and brigadiers speaking in Victorian-accented Hinglish must have an answer to this simple question – provided they discount the standard ‘hands from across’ catch-phrase they are so habitual of attaching with everything bad and foul!

Social-psychological theories of conflict analyses inform that the concepts of selective exposure, selective perception, and selective recall all point to the fact that people’s attitudes determine the kind of information that is available to them. This is true for all the parties and individuals sitting across the fault-lines of any conflict, Kashmir included. Both people of Kashmir as also those representing Indian mainland - news anchors as well as “Kashmir experts”- in televisions studios are yet to learn to leave their political attitudes and strings behind for a dispassionate and objective analyses of history as well as current happenings. Consequently, they are exposed only to the information that confirms their views than to the information that contradicts them.

Indian media, for instance, tends to seek out only the confirmatory information because its news anchors and experts enjoy it more, trust it more, and find it more useful – because it supports their position in subsequent discussions. They process every new (and, at times old) information in light of their preexisting frameworks while catering to the street sentiment with a marked pro-right bias in order to grab more TRPs. As these selectivity processes dominate the interactions between the conflicting parties, it gives birth to mirror images and mutual expectations of unprovoked and unseen but subtle hostilities, thereby producing self-fulfilling prophecies that only escalate conflict further.

With these TV channels having taken upon themselves the responsibility of talking to and with Kashmir (as if on behalf of Government of India, which has shown lack of gut for such engagement), this self-centered (read -serving) view of ‘other’s’ (Kashmiri’s) existence and ideology as being aimed at the destruction of India’s national existence or interests results in failures to take into account the Kashmiri perspective. In the midst of this stereotyping and in the absence of appropriate context, the parties are not able to appreciate the varieties, changes, and any signs of flexibility in the other side’s views. This is why every single opportunity or opening for peace is not appreciated; leave aside making good of it. As along as Delhi lets its jaundiced, jingoistic and unsophisticated media hawks to dictate and set discourse on important issues like Kashmir, hoping for anything worthwhile to happen is just expecting the unexpected.

Raouf Rasool is Editor of daily Kashmir Images.





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