Indian TV news channels must stop humiliating Kashmiris

In the last one year, the unending cycle of violence (including the cross-border ones) and protests in the Kashmir Valley have given prime time television news anchor a lot of fodder. Unfortunately, very few have taken a professional, matured and balanced approach on these issues; instead, they have assumed an overtly aggressive (read nationalist) posture. Things have come to such a pass that they themselves are deciding whether the Centre should impose president’s rule in the Valley or not.

Some of the television channels seem to be devoted to the Indian Army; they behave as if they are part of the forces and fighting the battle on the ground along with them. Every action of the Army is eulogised, howsoever, reprehensible such a stance may appear to its viewers. These channels have been joined by a band of former Indian Army officers who are invited to the studios just for one reason: They happily toe the channel’s nationalist line.

On the opposite side, there are the retired Pakistani army officers. They are first invited to the studios to discuss a matter of bilateral importance and then insulted thoroughly. In the process, their voices are rarely heard.

Unfortunately, the Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat has also been in the news in stark contrast to his reticent predecessor. No one grudges him the publicity he gets from the media but it is not appropriate of such a senior army officer to get embroiled in controversy.

We are elated when TV news shows that the Indian Army has destroyed posts across the border. The other side too brags about inflicting heavy casualties on us. It is becoming increasingly difficult to understand who is telling the truth.

I know Kashmir well because I have served in the Valley between 2006 and 2009 as DIG (operations) of Srinagar and I have no hesitation to add that the electronic media by its irresponsible actions is widening the chasm between the citizens of the Valley and the rest of the country. They must stop humiliating the people of the Valley. If they continue to do so, even those who don’t support violence will be forced to review their stand. As it is the lynching of Muslims in different parts of India is affecting the Valley.

If New Delhi is serious about changing the scenario in the Valley, the security forces, the administrative machinery and politicians need to pay attention to the sensitivities of the people.

By all means the Union government and the security forces must be firm with those who break the law, but, at the same time, it must also remember that a large number of people in Kashmir want peace and normalcy, and rebuild their destroyed lives and careers.

These people are on our side, let us not alienate them.

If that happens, India will find it difficult to contain the disaster.