Indian Media & Kashmir Coverage

In the terrible predicament that Kashmir is lingeringly suffering between India and Pakistan, media has come to play a quite significant role; and why not? Media in its contemporary all encompassing role, is not only expected to report but also mediate and facilitate the narratives of conflict as has been prescribed for other conflict zones across the globe.
However, looking at the Indian media and its Kashmir coverage, such results can hardly be anticipated.

The Indian media has reduced the suffering and struggles of Kashmiri people to mere statistics and hangs on to rudiments of “he said, she said” token objectivity. With its teeming news bureaus and staff around the valley, it may well have been physically non-existent for the sheer fact of selective reporting that is done without any apparent qualms.

And not to mention the total loss of context, which is the greatest casualty.
The images of victim-hood and disparate representations of discredited pro-Indian politicians are manna for primetime but the same cannot be said for a majority of events that pivot around the separatist agenda, which are an open manifestation of a strong resistance movement such as the frequent protests by the harassed population, the mothers whose children disappeared in the custody of Indian armed forces or the students.

The mainstream Indian audience is hardly introduced to the human rights activists or other saner representatives of the struggle who share grassroots values and popular goodwill. Moreover, reporting cases of rape by Indian armed forces, which in the recent years have been on the rise, is strangely limited. This despite the fact that rape is internationally recognized as a weapon of war and a crime against humanity punishable at war crimes tribunals. Some high profile rape cases, even though covered by local and international media have been largely ignored by them. Such cases when reported are inserted as adjunct to insurgency incidents rather than being explored as an offshoot of the Indian occupation.

The reports of countless incidents of harassments, accidental deaths in addition to the usual destruction wrought by the Indian armed forces is missing from the news; of course they would have needed no big headlines, small flickering tickers or news briefs could have indicated a semblance of sensitivity and objectivity, had the Indian media possessed such a thing.

Many theories as they comment on media and reporting of a conflict tend to defend media portrayal or selective reporting through various lenses. Limitations that encompass but are not limited to media’s dialectical relation and time constraints, reliance on stereotypes to convey messages fast or sheer commercialization. However, explicable these infractions may be they become unforgivable sins in scenarios such as Kashmir, where the lives are at stake every moment of the day. Moreover, there is a large body of evidence backing the fact that the Indian media’s Kashmir coverage is not just a bane of commercialized news media but it is jingoistic, sensational and nationalistic to core; pandering to the opinions of the pro-India political elite both inside and outside Kashmir.

 

Recently Mohammad Yasin Malik criticized Indian media for “for fighting India’s war in Kashmir.” Its about time someone mouthed the sentiment and pointed to the extreme damage that Indian media is causing Kashmiri society both in misrepresenting its struggle but also in churning out disparaging commentaries on Kashmiri character, evident in the news reports, Bollywood films and television serials. No wonder police interrogated “Kashmiri looking guys”, in the Mumbai train blast case. We have come a long way from being portrayed as “cowards” who did not know what do with a gun to being actually stereotyped as being inherently violent.

 

True, Kashmiris have a long history of tolerating stereotypes. With a history of occupations, annexations and oppressions such as ours, I am sure the older generation had much more to contend with than just rally against derogatory nomenclature, irreverent comments in books and the general servile attitudes attributed to us, perpetually molded as “Mahmdus” fawning over gora and later brown “Sahabs”; the remnants of which still stalk us through the countless Bollywood flicks set in Kashmir in the 60’s. However, it’s a long travel for our national character (read stereotype) to radically grow from complacently rowing the Shikara for the star couple in the background to actually bombing one. And neither portrays us right.

 

The right thing at this moment in history, when wars are waged, reinforced and sustained through ever renewed and sophisticated communication technology, that we Kashmiris strengthen our own agencies of information by initiating and supporting local grassroots media. From a small blog to a newspaper, from a flyer to a book, from a flicker on the You-tube to a Sundance documentary it’s about time we fittingly answer those jingoistic “money-minting” forces who are commenting wrongly on Kashmiris and their struggle.

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About AtherZia

Ather Zia is a political anthropologist working on militarization, gender and Kashmir. Currently she is a faculty at the Anthropology and Gender studies program at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. She is also a poet, writes short fiction and is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit at www.kashmirlit.org.

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