Their Master’s Voice

  • Adil Bhat
  • Publish Date: Jun 16 2017 7:25PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 16 2017 7:25PM
Their Master’s Voice

                                                       Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi/KI

Analysing the Indian media's coverage of Kashmir


“Terrorist killed by CRPF”. “LeT attack foiled”. “Women stone-pelters disbursed by the army”. “Jawan killed in cross-border infiltration”. The news coverage of the Kashmir conflict is both limited and biased, defined less by the political aspiration of the people and more by what they oppose (Indian state, army). This kind of reporting is the result of the tenacious link that exists between power and journalism.

One of the prominent features of the Kashmir conflict is how the Indian national media reports it, or, more accurately, misreports it. The lens and pen is enmeshed in the politics of the day, giving a completely false impression of what is happening on the ground. The decades-old political struggle of the Kashmiris is painted with colours that Kashmiris do not identify with. The aim is to suppress the voice of the people by from circulating the pernicious narrative of the Indian state.  

Using the tropes of Islamism and Pakistan to discredit the political struggle of the Kashmiris has become the great national duty of India TV channels. Taking this discourse to the nadir, Arnab Goswami of Republic TV, conducting a debate on June 3 titled “Nation First No Compromise” on the issue of “terror backers and financiers in Kashmir”, suggested opening​ an Indian version of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility where all those involved in “making money” in Kashmir should be incarcerated. His panelist Gaurav Arya, while agreeing with the suggestion, drew absurd parallels between the people of Kashmir and th debt and food scarcity afflicting Indian farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra. Arya remarked, “Half of the time Kashmir in under bandh, half the time they are stone-pelting. Despite this there is no case of malnutrition, no case of farmer suicide. In fact, everyone in the valley has red cheeks. I want to understand where is this money coming from? Why is everybody looking so healthy?”

Arnab, of course, defended Arya’s laughable argument as “very rational”. What is troubling here is the kind of language used. Does Arya desire to see Kashmiris dying of hunger and famine? Is the good health of Kashmiris evisence cross-border funding? While such a proposition is laughable, it is also dangerous beacuse it seeks to deny agency to a people.

The Aryas and the Arnabs of the India media should know that “red cheeks” and “no farmer suicides” in the valley is credit to the extraordinary spirit of Kashmiris in the face of decades of military occupation and oppression.

Because it echoes and amplifies the narrative of the state, the Indian media’s coverage of Kashmir miserably shallow. During last summer's uprising, the media went out of its way to keep the oppressor and the oppressed on an even playing field. This ‘you’ve-got-to-be-fair-to-everybody’ kind of journalism in wars and conflicts is injustice not only to the victims, but also to the profession itself, which is about challenging authority and asking difficult questions. Rather than keep a watch on power, the Indian media is enthralled to power.

Reportage of the Kashmir conflict has blown the myth that media acts as a check on political power, the media informs the public and is combative. The media has been reduced to a propaganda machine of the state, telling people what the power wants them to tell. That's a tragedy.