The centre’s decision to revoke Article 370, which accorded a special status to Jammu and Kashmir will go down in history as a significant strategy to change a provision in the Indian constitution. An action which was unambiguously backed by the Indian media. On the contrary, a number of former defence officers and bureaucrats have challenged the government’s decision and declared it as “unconstitutional, void and inoperative.”
With the exception of a few, the Indian media echoes the government’s demonstrably false assertion, that the things are ‘normal’ in Kashmir.
On one hand, the mainstream Indian media seem to support the government’s nationalistic stance, and on the other, the coverage of the international media has been uniformly critical of the Indian government. Meanwhile, the voices of the Kashmiri remained completely shut off. The front page pictures of the empty Kashmiri streets, guarded by heavily armed soldiers makes it clear that the region is heavily under military occupation.
Things don’t seem normal when we comprehend that the number of pages of the local dailies in Kashmir have down from twenty to just four.
Practicing journalism has never been easy in the Kashmir valley. Muzammil Jaleel of the Indian Express, wrote on Facebook: “Kashmir has turned invisible even inside Kashmir.”
The journalist are devoid of any access to the news sites or social media. They couldn’t fact check anything online or even make a phone call.
In between all the hardships faced by the journalists and the local people, few established Indian media made the situation very ordinary in front of the rest of the world. In sharp contrast, many international media organisations including BBC, Reuters, New York Times, Al Jazeera have shown a varied report on the situation in the valley.
It all started when UK’s public broadcaster BBC World presented video footage showing a number of Kashmiris protesting against the abrogation of the special status. The footage clearly debunked the government’s claim that Kashmir is “returning to normalcy.”
This event has put BBC and other international media organisations under scrutiny when some embedded journalists with social media following vehemently started to defend the government’s position. The choice of words used by the international media to address the valley were also doubted.
Until then, according to many media agencies, the life of Kashmiris was “back on track” amidst the suspension of all the communication channels and an unprecedented lockdown of the state.
As The Economist has rightly put it, “India’s press and television channels are jumping up and down cheering.”
Some Indian TV channels showed footage of people shopping for the celebration of Eid on August 10. In contradiction to the claims made by the international media, many Indian media organisations aired footage of Kashmiris praising the government’s decision, people going about their daily chores and crowds gathering around the ATMs. This clearly shows that the Indian government attempted to have control over the information of the tensed situation in Kashmir.
A team consisting of Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association, Jean Dreze, economist and an Indian citizen of Belgian decent, Maimoona Molla of All India Democratic Women’s Association released a report on August 14 after returning from extensive travels from Kashmir. They found that the situation in the valley is very different than the way it had been portrayed in the Indian media.
In conclusion, there is a shortfall when it comes to trusting the Indian media, which most people consider anti-Kashmiri. To get a clear picture of the situation, not only the journalists, but the government also has to be transparent and accountable for the circumstances in the valley. It is very important to consider news as the one which is principled and ethical, not the one which follows majoritarianism.