TRP versus Truth on Kashmir

  • Javaid Malik
  • Publish Date: Jun 26 2016 1:32PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 26 2016 1:32PM
TRP versus Truth on Kashmir

The method in madness of TV anchors

The national media, especially the news channels, have come under severe criticism for demonizing Kashmiris and projecting them as war-mongers. The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stirred the hornet’s nest by blaming national media for portraying Kashmiris negatively. “National electronic media is always looking for an excuse to humiliate Kashmiris and spread hatred against them in the country. When a few masked youth come on streets to pelt stones or carry flags, it is flashed on all national TV channels across the country for days together. But never ever do they highlight the positive things happening in Kashmir,” Mehbooba said while addressing a gathering in South Kashmir.    
Most Kashmiris are of the opinion that national media resorts to biased reporting when it comes to Kashmir. Killings and alleged human rights violations are no news for the national media but any negative happening like encounters, anti-India demonstrations turn into breaking news, and serious debates are held over such issues. These debates end with only one conclusion “punish Kashmiris” or deport them from India.
The Kashmiri panelists, who participate in these debates, face the wrath of anchors for not toeing their line and sometimes they are caught in a very difficult situation.
The chief spokesman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party  Dr Mehboob Beg says that by demonizing Kashmiris, national media believes it’s serving national interest. “The propaganda unleashed by the national media against Kashmiris is neither good for the state nor the country,” he said.
Dr Beg believes that these channels are taking undue advantage of the freedom of speech. “A few anchors of these channels show no respect for the panelist who don’t toe their line. These people should realize they are projecting Kashmiris in a bad light. This  adds to the alienation and creates problems for them in other states as electronic media has a vast reach and impact on the young minds,” he said.
The former national spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr Sumir Kaul says predominant section of the media follows the national narrative on Kashmir. “There is only five percent of the national media which rises above the national narrative to find out what is the truth. Ninety five percent of the national media toes national interest.” The problem doesn’t lie with the media. It lies with the fact about there are two narratives of truth. For Kashmiris truth is that they want their grievances to be addressed and Kashmir issue to be resolved according to their wishes and aspirations. For the national media truth is that Kashmir is a settled issue and there is no chance of holding any negotiation over this issue,” Dr Kaul said adding  that media has to realize that it cannot bury the truth for safeguarding the national interests.
“The media has to ensure that it shows both sides of the story rather than focusing on one narrative only. Media has to emerge as voice of people rather than becoming a propaganda tool,” he said.     
The spokesperson of opposition National Conference Junaid Mattu believes that national media especially the television news channels have only one approach: “Either you are with us or against us.”
“The debates which are held on TV channels are nothing more than TV shows which are held to increase the TRPs of the channels. For them, Kashmiris who don’t toe their line are anti-nationals who have to fall in line or face the music,” Mattu said.  “Staying away from these debates is no big issue. One can easily say no to them but fact of the matter is that we have to convey to the country that Kashmiris are not war-mongers and whatever the other panelists say on these channels is not a gospel truth.” 
Mattu believes that national media has to change its approach towards Kashmir and Kashmiris. “It cannot keep on projecting Kashmiris in bad light forever. It has to go beyond a line which it has drawn,” he says. 
The NC spokesperson believes that it’s a battle between “prejudices” and “stereotypes.”
“National media is a reflection of national mainstream. Anyone who tries to articulate pro-JK point of view by default opposes their perspective and he is anti-national for them. On the other hand we have also stereotypes in Kashmir and it’s an established fact that Kashmiris are not nationalist and harbour ill-will against the country. So it’s a very complex battle which cannot be fought on the basis of objective questions like yes or no.” 
A professor of University of Kashmir says that national media blows out a small incident out of proportion and makes the entire world believe that situation in Kashmir is explosive. “The media doesn’t realize that a sporadic incidents can take palce anywhere. The negative reporting has its effects on tourism in Kashmir,” he said. “Recently a minor scuffle between the two student groups at NIT in Srinagar was projected as a war between locals and non-locals which led to the Kashmiris studying in other states facing the wrath of the so-called nationalist elements.”
The Head of Department of English Department at University of Kashmir Professor Hameeda Nayeem believes that national media is an extension of the Indian state vis-à-vis Kashmir. “We cannot expect them to plead our cause as they are predators who wait for a chance to pounce upon Kashmiris. A few channels have only one agenda i.e. to project Kashmiris as terrorists,” she said.
She says, earlier she used to participate in the debates held by these channels but now she prefers to “stay away” as the anchors are not ready to listen to the Kashmiri point of view. “People like me used to participate in the debates to drive home a point that propaganda unleashed against Kashmiris is baseless but we realized that whenever we project our point of view other panelists used to pounce upon us or our voice was muted. They love to humiliate Kashmiris and want them to toe their nationalist line. Their antagonistic attitude is an ample proof of them being biased against Kashmir and Kashmiris,” she added.
The Kashmir based spokesman of Bharatiya Janata Party Khalid Jehangir  was of the opinion that national media is doing its job by countering the propaganda unleashed by separatists and secessionists. “It’s the duty of the media to safeguard the national interests and counter the anti-national propaganda. Times have changed and the nationalist Kashmiris cannot be suppressed anymore. Most Kashmiris want to live a peaceful life and are happy with India,” he said.