It is a little like a bunch of wild, drunken, guffawing goons chucking stones while squatting on a ledge over a delicate operation to pull a throng of people out of a gorge which is flooding fast.
It is that uncivilized. It is that insensitive. It is that nasty. It is that savage. It is that evil.
While security forces have cooperated with the state and Central governments in a multi-pronged and back-breaking operation to pull Kashmir back from the brink over the past week, some television channels have concentrated on vitiating the atmosphere. While the forces have often shown superhuman restraint in order to calm violent crowds, the crusader of India’s television anchors have raucously bayed for blood.
Let’s get one thing straight. This is not journalism. The so-called debate 'shows’ that several television anchors now run in India are more like Roman circuses or wrestling akhadas. No wonder that the programme that first laid the pattern for these shows was shamelessly called `the big fight.’
Like the Roman circuses, these shows try to attract vast audiences, preferably of those who have black-and-white responses given shape by fear and bias. Through songs and films, other media channels have already built a huge penchant for violence among television audiences. It boils down to grabbing money; the larger the audience, the higher the charge for each second of advertising.
This sort of money-grubbing in fact is more harmful to the national interest than the loot by Vijay Mallya and other erstwhile darlings of those same media channels. The diversion of mind-boggling sums to such corporates by public banks under political pressure might not quite harm the national interest as much as the vicious blood-baying of the channels that mimic Roman circuses.
Their circus-like patterns must not be mistaken for entertainment. It is even more closely related to politics than the loot of banks. Those looters are suspected to have siphoned much of the`loan’ monies to their political patrons. The societal rifts that the circus managers deepen directly help parties who want sectarian votes.
Their discourses have sometimes put lives in danger, even brought the targets of their vicious attacks murder threats from the more crass among their viewers and followers. This has not given them pause. At least one of those channels actually plays visuals of a raging fire across the lower half of the screen during its `debates.’ The barely hidden agenda of these channels is grossly communal. Without saying so openly, they promote Hindutva, and despise minorities.
Pouring oil on the Kashmir fire
Over the past two days, some bright, young, efficient and patriotic IAS officers of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre have reacted strongly to these channels. They have protested against the debilitating impact of these channels’ vile biases amid the current grueling challenge in Kashmir.
Those officers have named Times Now, News X, Zee News and Aaj Tak. Those who run and own these channels should hang their heads in shame. Such is their shamelessness, though, that they are not above twisting the heartfelt complaints of these officers to suit their agenda. They could even reduce some of the finest citizens of this land to communal and parochial terms.
The first to protest against these channels was an officer from Jammu, who has recently been inducted into the IAS. The upright young man has a clear gaze and a firm handshake. He posted a long and deeply felt protest against the way these channels were projecting the situation in Kashmir, and the Kashmiri people. That post went viral on Friday morning. Thousands shared that post.
The young man was evidently overwhelmed by the unexpected effect of his post. A few hours later, Shah Faesal, the IAS officer in the state with the highest profile across the country, also posted a similar protest. By doing so, the erudite, wise and popular Faesal became a shield for his younger colleague.
Referring to the `ridiculous debate’ on television, Faesal took strong exception to his picture being juxtaposed with pictures of slain militant Burhan Wani – as a contrast. `Have I joined IAS to do a job or to become a part of your sadistic propaganda machine?’ Faesal asked.
Both young men have an iconic stature among young Kashmiris. But instead of drawing out the common points (courage, diligence, commitment and the perception of puritan morality, for example) which make both popular, these channels had sought to present the two in black-versus-white terms.
Faesal was presented as essentially Indian, Burhan as essentially anti-India – Faesal as nationalist, Burhan as anti-national. Faesal alluded to the `personal vulnerability’ to which such contrasts had exposed him.
Faesal pointed out, absolutely correctly, that: “At a moment when Kashmir is mourning its dead, the propaganda and provocation being dished out from red and blue newsrooms is breeding more alienation and anger in Kashmir than what the Indian state can manage,” the IAS officer wrote.
Further, he wrote: “By juxtaposing my photos with the images of a slain militant commander, a section of national media has once again fallen back upon its conventional savagery that cashes on falsehoods, divides people and creates more hatred.’’
Perceptively, he said that, ` no Government can distance itself from the pain of it's people and all our efforts are being made to contain this crisis and reach out to youth. It is going to take time.
Till then we have to steer safe from spoilers who want to set Kashmir valley on fire just for the sake of TRP.’
To secure the future of India, all patriots must take the call of this extraordinary patriot and jewel of contemporary India very seriously.