Is Indian media prepared to ask the ‘holy’ questions!
INKSIGHT BY MEHMOOD UR RASHID
First it happened in 2008. Here people smashed the calm, and there media broke silence over Kashmir. News reports, opinion articles, and special discussions – there was a deluge of talk over Kashmir. It was probably first such thing happening as people saw them being talked about at length by the media in India, that otherwise was seen as the operational part of the overall politico-security grid. Although the image of Indian media in Kashmir is largely that of a wave-breaker, one that deflects the force mounted by Kashmiris against New Delhi, but there are occasions of exception.
The present mass mobilization in Kashmir accompanied by nerve shaking human tragedies has once again occasioned an exception. Indian TV channels and print medium also, are once again abuzz with the talk about Kashmir. Indian political leadership, some Kashmiri political faces, and above all young Kashmiris are these days seen on Indian TV channels expressing themselves on Kashmir. But in this visibly enhanced focus of Indian media on what is happening in Kashmir, the problem of pattern stays; though all of Indian media cannot be brushed as a monolith, as the differences within this body are all too visible. We have some Hindi news channels shamelessly blaring out information and opinion that is more obnoxious than the invidious propaganda of a rabid fanatic. Then we have, even in Hindi medium, those who at least try to sound ‘sympathetic’ towards the tragedy-torn Kashmir. Similarly in the English medium, there is a full spectrum, ranging from a crass like Arnab Goswami to a professional like Barkha Dutt. But the cardinal difficulty with the Indian media is still not gone. Although some reluctant attempts could be seen in past few weeks to circumvent that cardinal difficulty, but the advised disinclination to raise the questions that stay at the heart of Kashmir problem is not over. Though the amount of talk about the 2010-Kashmir is abundant but the essential silence stands unbroken. The point is, can Indian media really take a stride over a consensually-imposed barricade of silence.
While all of Kashmir is making the silences of the terrorized spaces speak, Indian media is doing a diabolic silencer. But if it is talking so much about Kashmir, how is it silent. In two ways: one, by submerging the discussions in topics that are not even tangentially related to what is happening in Kashmir right now. One such example is Omar Abdullah and mis-governance. It makes almost a permanent entry in the TV debates and discussions, while it is not even worth a footnote in the whole text of Kashmir-2010. This public mobilization and the associated human cost are not about Omar Abdullah. This government and its head is too little a thing for such a huge public enterprise. Similarly issues like geographical divisions and ethnic diversity of this state are brought up in the discussions in such a way as all of this has come under some serious threat. This is one way of being insidiously silent; a negative silence.
Another is by simply being silent; a positive silence. One remembers a very recent discussion on NDTV about the shoe-throwing incident. Vinod Mehta made a poignant remark by saying that shoe throwing aside, we must discuss what people of Kashmir are actually crying about. Mehta believed that it is better if Azadi is discussed in very unequivocal terms. That was the hit at the head of the nail. Even the tragic loss of human lives needs to be put in this context. By deliberating on the loss of lives and other human sufferings in Kashmir as ‘human rights issues’ is a subtle way of being silent. An honest discussion over Kashmir would require Indian media to disturb the lines that have been drawn in the minds of a population by the Indian political leadership. The ideas of nationalism, history, secularism, sovereignty, and even security need pointed appraisal in the context of Kashmir.
Indian media can display the maturity of purpose, besides a sign of professional depth, if they discuss these problems even in the leisure time, not to speak of the times like we are witnessing right now in Kashmir. But they have chosen not to. Further they have decidedly gravitated in favour of acting as wave breakers when the storm of such question hits the land. Territorial sovereignty and a cartographic imagination contingent on religious-nationalism cannot always juxtapose comfortably. The idea of nationalism that has developed in India over many decades is the biggest impediment in the path of solution to a problem like Kashmir. It’s strange that when even footnotes are discussed at length what is at the core skips mention. What harm does it do to call it a headache when the ache really has gripped the head!
The day Nehru discovered his India on the ramparts of Red Fort he stumbled on its nemesis in Kashmir. By fixing the post of nationalism at the ramparts, Nehru flailed the lariat towards Kashmir to wrestle it down into his pit of discovery. Sixty years down the timeline Kashmir refuses to yield to that pull, occasionally giving birth to a situation where the post itself feels the strain. It is at this point that the Indian media covers up the truth by fixing the lens in million different directions except where it actually needs to be fixed. Making of a nationalism, growth of a state around this nationalism, and the indoctrination of an entire population around this concept of nationalism are the areas where Indian media need to educate its own people.
But the weight of nationalism, and the state nourished agencies for the promotion of this nationalism, is grounded violently on the chest of Indian media. It’s not good for its heart. They will miss even their own beat one day. So it is not about the funny side of media which attracts crowds just because they want to sell them common utility goods. It’s not even about the stupid jingoistic media needlessly frothing over political trivia. It about a meaningful space that gets filled in by wrong questions and accompanied answers; it’s about a meaningful silence that hurts more than the shrill of propaganda.
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Lastupdate on : Wed, 25 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 25 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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