Kashmiri Voices Are Lost In The Jingoistic Noise Of Mainstream Media
Most of the people in Jammu and Kashmir are considered to be the antagonists of the Indian media which rarely covers Kashmir in its rightful perspective. There is a general belief that every news item coming from the Valley has to go through many official eyes before it gets time on airwaves or space in publications. Under the debris of official lies and media restrictions, the common voice and the ground situation remains hidden as a result of which the suppression becomes a stimulus for rumour mongering and fake news dissemination.
When Kashmiris are asked about the Pakistani media coverage of the Valley, it becomes evident that public opinion is no different from that of the Indian media.
According to a Kashmiri journalist (name withheld) who is associated with a well-known international newspaper in London, “if there were no international media outlets that give Kashmir some space, the rest of the world’s six billion people, excluding the subcontinent, would not even know a bird that is named Kashmir”.
Nobody can deny the fact that many Kashmiri hearts beat with Pakistani rhythm. Majority of them have a soft spot somewhere hidden in the core of their hearts for Pakistan. This often has become life and death issue while expressing your admiration for its cricket or when Eid moon is sighted in the skies of Pakistan and Kashmir at the same time, even if Kashmir’s Grand Mufti has seen it many times before. There is some inherent connection which couldn’t get severed despite many setbacks and betrayals.
Raja Hafeez, a Kashmiri intellectual living in Berlin says, “It is not only difficult but impossible to sever the religious, cultural and historical ties. The 1.5 billion population of the subcontinent is well aware of this. There may be some common DNA that has bonded this relationship beyond many political and geographical upheavals, even though the U-turns and ‘alternative strategies’ by Pakistani politicians in every era have done immense damage to Kashmir globally and locally”.
Many of our friends will be angry with his bitter words, but we as a “Kashmiri nation” must get into the habit of telling the truth and accepting the truth. This could prove the best treatment for stomach indigestion.
Indian media presents only one side of the Kashmir tragedy that is always shrouded in official makeup. After the implementation of a new media policy recently, it is now a punishable crime to speak out against the state policy. On the contrary, Pakistani media does not talk about Kashmiri lives. If it ever does, there is either government pressure behind it or it has shaken them morally in order to hide the shame when it has got space in the headlines of the international media. Pakistani media has proved to be an event-driven story teller.
Apparently, the constant turmoil of Pakistani politics has always kept its media busy and engrossed, it affords little time for other news stories. But, the basic principle of journalism cannot be compromised or the PEMRA (electronic media regulator of Pakistan) cannot be over burdened every time to remind the media of its “jugular vein” mantra. Or, the media has no sense of the Kashmir issue.
Then there is another tragedy: When some Pakistani analysts participating in Kashmir debates on Indian channels have to face humiliation and ridicule. I have often heard many Kashmiris cursing them and their ignorance at that time. In the past I had dared to ask few speakers why they had to tolerate this humiliation and why to let themselves be ridiculed by being mere spectators on Indian channels. They were outraged and parted ways without even saying goodbyes.
It is not confined to Indian or Pakistani media; in fact the media as a whole has now resorted to jingoistic humiliation more than journalism. Wise people consider it safe to stay away from it and many honest journalists have preferred to quit their profession.
In the private gatherings of Kashmiri reporters, one would often hear that if some reputable commentators come to the Pakistani media channels and cover every subject in a very reasonable manner, then who are these analysts who keep bragging on Indian media and have no clue about what the situation in Kashmir was? Even they are not familiar with the language they speak. Then they support everything Indian channels want them to. Just like the former RAW chief AS Daulat made Asad Durrani to spill beans on issues relating to Kashmir policy that the Pakistani army and political establishment have been denying. I would tell them that Asad Durrani has not been seen anywhere since he had dreamed of making himself a hero in ‘Spy Chronicles’. Some journalists started staring at me with their bloodshot eyes.
Every national media has its own compulsions but Pakistani media faces a double compulsion. It doesn’t seem only ignorant of the historical reality of Kashmir but it also denies the fact that a powerful section of the country is obsessed with Kashmir and cannot think of their existence without its supposed lifeline, i.e. Kashmir. How come this gets no mention in their national media? Like the majority opinion in the Valley is blacked out in the Indian media.
Leading columnist and a senior journalist of Pakistan, Wusatullah Khan explains the reasons by saying that “many journalists in Pakistan have no idea about Kashmir, its background or the situation inside the valley. Media is mostly limited to official press notes, counter-allegations by opposition parties and the performance of officials. In the last three years, the image of Pakistani media has totally changed and has been damaged. The in-depth research or analysis of a story no longer matters. Then, you can’t say everything that is not in line with the government policy. In such a situation, there is nothing we can do except pray for Kashmiris”.
At the time when the media policy of both warring nations follows the official line on Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Gilani’s announcement about parting ways with the All-Party Hurriyat Conference becomes a trophy for both. Instead of investigating the reasons behind his decision if he has done it, the media becomes frenzied and presents him in their own official brand.
“Oh lord! Who will understand my heart?”
That has no longer hope in it………………”
The sister of a young man who was killed during a recent military operation in Kulgam explains her ordeal while listening to news of her brother on media. “My brother was a terrorist for the Indian media, a mujahid for the Pakistani media. For me, he was a sole breadwinner, protector of three sisters, sole hope for old parents, a gentle soul for his village, who was so compelled by volatile circumstances that he preferred to die with dignity instead of dying every day. If the media had any idea of our situation, they would have become our spokespersons instead of official spokespersons, raising voice to protect our lives, launching campaigns against the killing of our teenagers, like the campaigns they do to save lions, wild animals and marine life. They would have joined us in our fight to achieve our political rights”.
I wanted to remind her that the time has gone when the media was considered a mirror of society. When Prem Chand wrote his story “shroud” to shake the society, or when Mahjoor would warm the hearts of the people by reciting ‘Wolu Ha Bagwano’ or Iqbal would shake up conscience with his “eagle spirit” ethos.
Now a large part of the media has become a distorted magnifying glass that only shows the blood-thirsty and abhorrent image of official narratives.
Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor is a former editor of BBC Urdu service, Penguin author and independent Urdu columnist.