Ranjona Banerji: A question of national interest on Kashmir

16 Sep,2016

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, appeared, for all practical purposes, as a model for a large corporation to advertise the launch of its new phone service. How has the media reacted to that? I have seen several jokes on social media. I have seen a few business articles on how the claims made by Reliance Jio are somewhat misleading. But on the propriety of the prime minister modelling for a private company there has been an almost ominous silence. Some official justification was made after social media asked the questions but propriety is different from technicality. A few editorials have been written questioning the PM’s decision but certainly no high-pitched TV news debates from all our bristling Ultra-Nationalists. I leave you with this question: suppose it was any other prime minister from any other party?

 

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Several commentators from within Kashmir, writing about the turmoil in the Valley which has now been going on for two months, have mentioned the tenor of TV news anchors as one contributing factor to the anger and violence. The media however will do what the media will do, regardless of the consequences, but it bears asking whether ill-informed TV journalists bent only on their personal aggrandisement are serving any purpose here. The media does not need to find answers; it needs to expose the problem and it needs to ask the questions. Kashmir is too complicated to be seen merely through a patriotic prism. These TV journalists from our most patriotic news channels might perhaps like to ask themselves where the national interest lies. If indeed, they ever question themselves.

 

On the issue of Kashmiri separatists – ever a subject to get TV’s blood boiling with rage – the ruling BJP government has recently come up with two contradictory statements. Jitendra Singh, who holds various portfolios, has said that the Indian government has to supply security to Kashmiri separatists to foil any possible assassination bids by Pakistan, which if successful will only give Pakistan more fodder to foment trouble in Kashmir. The Union Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said that the security should be withdrawn.

 

A prominent news anchor from one of the non-ultra-patriotic channels asked a BJP spokesperson about these two contradictory statements. His answer was “there is no regulated policy” on these statements. What does that mean? Is there no need for further questioning? Do the people of India not deserve to know why the Government of India has no “regulated policy” on the security for Kashmiri separatists? Did we get answers to these questions? Of course not. The BJP spokesperson wandered off somewhere else and that was the end of that.

 

Incidentally, how many TV debates have you seen on the number of Indian fishermen now languishing in Pakistani jails? Evidently, patriotism cannot possibly stretch that far.

 

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In the good news section, it is great to see that India’s Para Olympians are getting so much news coverage. I can I think safely say that this is the first time that these athletes are getting their due. It is also true that they have done extremely well in Rio and definitely a whole lot better than our Olympian athletes.

 

And if you missed it, here is a shame-inducing story on what differently-abled athletes have to go through in India:

http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/sport-others/spurred-by-jibe-16-yrs-ago-devendra-jhajharia-hurls-javelin-into-record-books-3031632/

 

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