Ranjona Banerji: Let’s examine the media’s role in the destruction of India

07 Apr,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


“India’s Brave Men Rescue Kashmiris” is a running on-screen headline on CNN-News 18 on this Fridaymorning. Heavy rains in Kashmir as well as snowfall have led to the Jhelum breaking its banks and to avalanches. There is severe flooding. The Army is out on rescue missions.


But please note the tone of that headline. Night after night, our nationalistic patriotic news channels rail and rant against Kashmiri separatists, yelling that Kashmir is part of India and anyone who does not agree is a traitor. The other night Rahul Shivshankar of Times Now screamed out a litany of complaints against Farooq Abdullah for his remarks on Kashmir and the separatist movement. You were left with the impression that Shivshankar knew more about Jammu and Kashmir than Abdullah, whatever Abdullah’s background and political experience. Maybe for all I know Shivshankar is a world-renowned expert on Kashmir. But he definitely is a fine proponent of television patriotism.


I am not singling Shivshankar out. He is symptomatic of the general trend of television patriotism. Night after night they display their uni-dimensional ignorance and flaunt their “patriotic credentials”. No one who has a different point of view or even nuance is allowed to speak. Thanks to Arnab Goswami, “human rights” are bad words, uttered only by unconscionable liberal bleeding hearts who are in fact traitors at their core.


And yet, we are now told that “India’s brave men” have been rescuing “Kashmiris”. If there were floods in Bengal, would the headline read, “India’s brave men rescue Bengalis”? Tamils? Gujaratis? Rajasthanis? How does India work for TV? Is Kashmir part of India or not? Or is it only about the subtext? Which as far as one can understand the petty mind of an Indian news anchor, might read like this: “Because there is a separatist movement in Kashmir, Kashmiris are inherently traitors to India. Kashmiris throw stones at the Indian Armed and Security Forces. Kashmiris can be Muslim. Kashmiris can be terrorists. Kashmiris can be pro-Pakistani. Therefore when the Indian Army conducts rescue operations in Kashmir, it is rescuing “Kashmiris” and not Indians and they do not deserve this help.”


Forget all the historical ignorance and the logical inconsistencies in this line of thought. And consider the damage it does to India and to Kashmiris. As if the current atmosphere of criminals running around emboldened by the BJP win in UP and the actions of its chief minister Yogi Adityanath was not bad enough, we have the media consistently trying to create a divide in Kashmir.


When a young Kashmiri IAS officer wrote about this dangerous media tactic of deliberately targeting Kashmiri youth as traitors last year, the intelligentsia commented and tried to understand but our Nationalistic news anchors went ballistic. The man was held up as one more example of a Kashmiri traitor who gets a salary from the government for daring to have an opinion counter to theirs. Senior cynics in the media tell me that this is just a dramatic technique by TV newsrooms or managements to pump up their viewership. I am truly tempted to replace “pump” with “pimp”.


Even if it sounds dramatic, we seem to be at a breaking point in India. And some in the media are helping the process along. The “cow protection” squads, the moral police, the freedom to kill and attack in the name of nationalism and sentiment have dug up old fissures and are tearing us further apart. The justification of these actions by the ruling BJP is almost condoned by the media when they give them legitimacy. If all Kashmiri youths who throw stones are traitors, then why aren’t those who justify the killing of a man for transporting a cow, all murderers?


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