Kashmir in the winter is packed with tourists. More than 1.5 million visited last year, a record. But have things really changed there? Here’s a look at the status through Kashmir’s Urdu newspapers.
There are over 20 Urdu dailies published from Srinagar, which is more than in the rest of India and more even than in Pakistan.
One reason for the enthusiasm is the money that comes easily to the papers from the government. Both the Centre and the state governments struggle to put their message out in a hostile environment, and must pay to occasionally have the press on their side.
The 2 January editions of these dailies in Srinagar carried a full page report on Omar Abdullah‘s achievements. This was a list of things he had inaugurated (there were pictures of a drainage, a libarary, a bridge and an aqueduct) and a long note on how he had brought peace and prosperity to the state. This was not in the form of an advertisement but as a news item. The text in all the papers was identical.
But is there much effect of this propaganda paid for by Indian taxpayers? The same papers suggest that this isn’t the case. India’s defeat in the second One Day Internationals on 3 January was headlined ‘Eden Gardens par shaheenon ki buland parwaz‘ (The eagles soar at Eden Gardens) in daily Uzma Kashmir. Similarly, the Indian victory a few days earlier in the second Twenty20 was headlined ‘Pakistan ko shikast‘ (Pakistan loses), rather than India wins. Sports pages carry features on Javed Miandad’s visa, Mohd Yusuf’s retirement, Mohd Asif’s biography and Shahid Afridi’s troubles. Little or nothing on India.
In Rozanama United Times, Aabid Thami wrote on poverty and politics (‘Kya ise insaniyat kaha jayega‘ – Can this be called humanity?). He recounted the story of Allah Baksh, a father of six in Rajanpur town, who had died. He tried to steal wheat from a government silo, and was killed when he made a hole in the bottom-most sack and the ones on top fell on him. Thami said he wanted to ask the “wazir-e-azam” (Prime Minister), who said he owned no cars but wore suits that cost Rs 21 lakh, why the poor were killing themselves to feed their children. The Prime Minister, added the daily, had also spent crores on his house in Multan. It is at this point that the reader realises that Thami is speaking of Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
Writing on Aaj Ki Jang’s op-ed page, Mohd Azam Azim Azam praised Jinnah (‘Millat ka pasban wa Islam ka nishan – Mohd Ali Jinnah’ – Sentinel of Muslims and seal of Islam, Jinnah). “The child grows up to be king – these words became true on the Indian subcontinent when an independent Muslim state came into being. The Muslims of India had dreamed of this for two centuries and saw it happen on 14 August, 1947. It came to be because of Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah’s integrity, intellect, bravery, political foresight and unshaking resolution. His actions gave immortality and security to Islam on the subcontinent, by producing the Muslim nation of Pakistan.”
Meanwhile it appears that the violence in Kashmir has ebbed. Roznama Zabarwan Times said in its editorial titled ’2012 talkh aur shirin yaadon ka saal‘ (2012, a bitter and sweet year) that 128 people were killed in Kashmir during the year. Of these 77 were militants, 24 were army and police and 27 were civilians. This was the lowest in memory.
The only piece in Wadi Ki Awaz’s 2 January round up of 2012 was on violence in Pakistan. It was the worst year in Karachi’s history and more than 2000 people were dead from “targeted killings” (meaning in rivalry between Pashtuns and Urdu-speaking Mohajirs). Meanwhile the tribal areas were peaceful because the Pakistan army had given up on its operations against the Taliban. However Pakistani and Afghan Talibs were now at war after the suicide bombing on Mullah Nazir in Pakistan, and 2013 would see new violence on this front.
In Roznama Udaan, Maulana Israr ul Haq Qasmi wrote that Muslims were forbidden from celebrating the new year (‘Naye saal ki dhoom-dhaam aur Musalmanon‘). He said such adaption of European traditions was dangerous and it was possible that this would destroy Muslim nations. Valentine’s Day had already corrupted the youth and now they had also begun to exchange cards and SMSes wishing one another a happy new year.