Now that a new BJP-led Union government has been sworn in amid much swearing by Congress-led Opposition leaders, the time is ripe for all Indian citizens to play a role in helping the government chart a course for our nation over the next five years. In this spirit, and sans any influence of ethylated spirits, we humbly offer the following guidelines that we hope will help the government in protecting our notional national interest.
Indian media; Pakistan; Kashmir; human rights; terrorism; activists; press freedom
Balakote: A Post-Mortem for countless Jaish-e-Mohamed cadres
As Indian political leaders, and even some Indian journalists, question the veracity and impact of the Indian Air Force strikes on Jaish e Mohammed facilities at Balakote on February 26th, their questions resemble those of the smug lawyer who was questioning a pathologist in the Coroner’s Court:
Lawyer: Doctor, before you signed the death certificate, did you check the patient for pulse?
Lawyer: Did you check for blood pressure?
Lawyer: Did you check for breathing? For heartbeat?
Lawyer: (triumphantly) So, doctor, do you admit it is possible that the patient was alive when you signed his death certificate?
Doctor: Well…let me put it this way. The patient’s brain was sitting in a jar on my desk when I signed his death certificate. But I guess it’s possible he was alive; indeed, he might even be practicing law somewhere.
I, dear reader, have no doubts at all about the IAF strikes on Balakote and their impact on the Jaish cadres sleeping in the targeted buildings. The several thousand kilos of penta-erythritol tetranitrate carried by those Spice missiles and thrust through the roofs of the buildings would have wreaked horrific destruction when they went off within – ripping apart metal, concrete, brick, wood, human flesh and bone.
I entirely empathized with the IAF Chief when he curtly told the media: “Our job is not to count bodies.”
Unlike the doubters as well as the gleeful war-mongers in their TV studios and editorial rooms, I do NOT want proof on how many JEM personnel were killed, or how many brooms and hoses were needed to clean up their remains.
Only the post-mortem of the deceased JEM cadres remains to be concluded.
The Coroner’s Court is noisy.
Two groups among those present—one Indian, the other Pakistani—are particularly strident. But strangely, both groups are screaming more or less the same things.
“The Modi-led government is lying.”
“The Indian government is lying.”
“There was no Jaish camp in Balakote.”
“Where is the proof that there was a Jaish camp at Balakote?”
“Where’s the proof that the IAF hit their targets or killed any Jaish men?”
“The IAF hit nothing…only a few trees.”
How can Indians and Pakistanis be united in screaming against the Indian government?
The Pakistani group – comprising the Pak establishment, ISI, army and media – hates India in general and the Modi-led Indian government in particular. This is sad, yet understandable.
The Pakistani group’s hatred has been stoked by the IAF strikes on Balakote, which have gone down well among the Indian public in an election year.
The Indian group – comprising Congress, CPM, TMC and other Opposition parties, as well as large sections of Indian media – hates the Modi-led government. This is sad, yet understandable.
The Indian group’s hatred too has been stoked by the IAF strikes on Balakote, which have gone down well among the Indian public in an election year.
Easy to understand…no?
I pay no attention to politicians because I do not trust politicians. By definition, all politicians lie. Nikita Khrushchev put it succinctly:
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
With a few noble exceptions, I pay no attention to journalists because I do not trust journalists. Try this out: take any event or issue, look at five different newspapers or TV news channels or websites, and you’ll get at least 19 different versions of ‘fact’, varying continuously and seamlessly with every passing hour. Breaking news is no longer distinguishable from breaking wind. As Thomas Jefferson put it:
The advertisements are the most truthful part of a newspaper.
Who, then, O long-suffering reader, can we trust to show us, tell us, the truth?
I don’t know about you…but I’ll stick with the Indian armed forces.
Be at peace, O deceased Jaish men. Unlike your Pakistani army handlers, I at least acknowledge that you once lived.
Why I trust Pakistani media more than Indian Media
I am beginning to trust the Pakistani media more than our own.
I hear distant howls of protest. The howls are presently followed by yips and snarls, suggesting that I am, in praising Pakistani media, placing my nationalistic credentials in doubt because (according to the yippers and snarlers) the Pakistani media finds nothing good whatsoever to say about Indians and India and is in fact biased against India and obsessed with reportage on Indian evils and stupidities.
I bark back cordially, citing in my defense incontrovertible evidence in public domain (in the shape of every Indian 24/7 TV news channel and every Indian newspaper) that our own Indian media too finds nothing good whatsoever to say about Indians and India and is in fact biased against India and obsessed with reportage on Indian evils and stupidities – even more so than Pakistani media.
Pakistan’s media is better than our own, because at least it tables the hard evidence to support its views on the idiocies and crimes of Indians. We are then able to examine that evidence ourselves, and accept or dismiss its worth. In sharp and unpleasant contrast, our very own ‘free’ Indian media rarely provides us with the hard evidence on which we can form our own opinions. Instead, it views and judges the evidence on our behalf (sans our invitation!)…and then, based on its own judgment, proceeds to pontificate, preach or otherwise editorialize on its own views on the matter without showing us the evidence till we rip the newspaper to shreds in rage (thereby depriving ourselves of 0.04 rupees we might have got from the kabadiwallah); or (horror of horrors) we are driven insane and meet a ghastly end staring, zombie-like, at the TV screen whence the shrieks of Arnab Goswami’s News Hour emanate and echo off the walls…
By way of example, consider the curious Indian Express front-page report on Ashoka University on 13th October, 2016 [click here] followed by an editorial on the subject on 17th October 2016 [click here].
Curious, because it raises a huge hue and cry over the ‘sudden resignation’ of two faculty members (unnamed) of Ashoka University. The Indian Express suggests the resignation is not a resignation but a sacking, allegedly over an online petition on (you guessed it) Kashmir violence that the two faculty members allegedly signed with 80-odd Ashoka University students.
Curious, because while the Indian Express headline suggested that this is something that had just happened, a patient reading of the story through to the inner pages revealed that the petition had in fact been written and posted online in July 2016—that is, nearly three months earlier.
Three months… imagine that.
Curious, that the Indian Express and the rest of Indian media (well, at least the few newspapers like The Hindu that picked up the story) suddenly woke up to the existence of this curious online petition three months after it was posted.
I know people complain about how slow Internet speeds are in India…but surely the ISPs that cater to Indian Express et al. can’t be that slow? Could this be another dastardly plot by the Modi-led NDA government to stifle the freedom of the press?
Less bandwidth, more banned wit?
I was curious to find out more. Curious about why I had never heard of this three-month-old petition. Curious also to read it; surely it had to be really incendiary for someone to be sacked for it – if only three months later? The Indian Express editorial of 17th October called it ‘rather strongly worded’; that only whetted my curiosity.
But even curiouser, in fact absolutely the most ek dum zyaada curious of all (curiousestest, perhaps?), I couldn’t find the petition on the website of any Indian newspaper.
Indeed, not a single Indian media house – neither print nor unprintable – had or has published the contents of the curious petition. Even the online forum where it had originally been posted – kafila.org – was ‘temporarily unavailable’, and has been so for 10 days now.
Which means, We the Wee People of India cannot read the petition via our own media and judge for ourselves as to whether it is worth bothering about.
I had to hunt the petition down on Pakistani media.
And that’s why I think the Pakistani media – indeed its reporters and journalists – are far more honest and transparent, perhaps even more courageous, than our own.
Here is the petition, copied and pasted from Daily Pakistan’s website: [posted there on 28th July 2016!]
The Govt of India and the Govt of Jammu and Kashmir
We, the undersigned—current students, alumni of the Young India Fellowship of Ashoka University—write to voice our deepest anguish and grave concern at the violent turn of events in Kashmir in the past few days.
The violence perpetrated by the Indian State after the extra-judicial execution of 22-year old Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani is highly condemnable. The Indian Army, Kashmir Police and other task forces have reacted violently with bullets, pellets and lathis in the clashes that erupted after Burhan’s funeral. This was immediately followed by many more protests and demonstrations as part of Kashmiri resistance to the military occupation of Kashmir by the Indian State.
In the violent repression of the protests which had a huge ground support (evident from the large attendance to Burhan’s funeral) , 55 civilians have been killed and around 3100 people were severely injured by the pellets , lathis and bullets, some of whom have lost their eyesight.
We, unequivocally, condemn this brutal use of force by the Indian State in dealing with the protests after the killing of Burhan Wani.
Several patients with injuries preferred not to get admitted in the hospital as the Police and CRPF have arrested some patients from the SMHS Hospital Casualty ward.
The armed forces were seen attacking hospitals and ambulances and stopping people going to funeral processions.
Consequently, alarming images of police, army and task force brutalities against women, children and youth have surfaced on social media.
We condemn the inhuman treatment meted out to the patients and the injured at the hands of the armed forces and the police.
At the same time, partial and prejudiced reportage by the jingoist national media is becoming the basis for racism, regionalism and religious intolerance among many Indians who are not afraid to bully Kashmiris and other minorities.
We condemn the grossly irresponsible way in which news channels reported about the on-going spate of violence playing to the majoritarian nationalist sentiments’ in a rush to increase their TRP’s and we appeal to them to report the ground realities, pain and agony of the Kashmiris.
The region is under a complete blackout with all modes of communication and transport blocked. The Valley has been under curfew for the past 14 days and it is still being enforced at the time of the writing of this letter.
Internet and mobile services have been completely cut-off for over nine days now. There are also reports of electricity and water supply cuts in some parts of the state. Newspaper offices of Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir were attacked by police and its employees arrested and its copies seized.
The attack on freedom of the press is a part of the tactics of the repressive mechanism of the Indian state to contain popular mass unrest in the valley.
This is not a one off incident as similar methods of intimidating and gagging the press have been employed by the government and its security agencies in the last two and a half decades.
This is a complete breakdown of law and order machinery as the institutions which are supposed to maintain peace, law and order are responsible for the lack of same.
We demand the immediate restoration of communication and transport facilities in the valley and appeal to the Govt. to end the curfew too.
The Indian state is inflicting all these atrocities on the Kashmiris in the name of Indians. We believe that the time has come when we protest the human right abuses and violations being carried out in our name by the Indian State. The following are our two pronged demands to the Indian Government:
Demilitarise Kashmir: Kashmir is the world’s most densely militarized colony with over 700000 military, paramilitary and militarized police.
We demand that Army is withdrawn from civilian areas in the Valley and not to use the Army for maintaining regular law and order. We also appeal to the Indian State to confine the job of the army to just the ‘borders’.
We also demand that colonial laws like AFSPA and Public Safety Acts should be repealed keeping in view their draconian nature and the history of human right abuses they have been responsible for.
Conduct A Plebiscite: A plebiscite was promised to Kashmiris as early as 1948 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India in a white paper released by the Govt. of India.
We demand that this promise of Indian State to the Kashmiris is honoured and a plebiscite should be conducted in the next two years in both the ‘Kashmirs’, the Indian Occupied Kashmir and the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
We believe that the Self Determination right of the Kashmiris is an inalienable right. We demand the Indian state to retreat from Kashmir, and let the Kashmiris decide their future and sovereignty.
University Students and Alumni
Having read the petition, I think the ’80-odd’ students and faculty who signed this are just that: 80 odd people. Perhaps they are distinctly odd people. A few might even be jackasses. But I’m convinced they are harmless.
But that’s only my opinion. You have every right to form your own opinion. We all do.
Why couldn’t the Indian Express – and the rest of our media – just have published this petition? And then left it to us to decide whether it is something worth fighting for in the name of upholding ‘liberalism’ (as Indian Express argued ad nauseum in its editorial) or whether (as I believe) it is merely a small, slightly fetid but harmless piece of organic fertilizer rendered in 12-point serif font?
No-one will tell me…there’s no-one to ask.
But now a thought strikes me: don’t our TV channels blip out even the most natural, light-hearted references to acts of sex (Aiyo Rama) or ablutions (Chee Chee Gandha), don’t they blur out even the slightest flashes of skin (male, female or otherwise) above the knee or below the neck, from old TV reruns like Seinfeld? That ‘70s show? Mr Bean, for God’s sake!?
The Indian government hasn’t asked the TV channels to censor these shows; or else surely we would have heard about it!
It’s pretty obvious our media is censoring what we get to see and read…of its own volition.
Today I asked my newspaper vendor whether he could get me Dawn or Daily Pakistan on a regular basis. He said he’ll ask around…but from the way he casually asked me whether I know much about miniature electronics and whether I can drive a truck, I doubt he will.
I’m joking, of course. Sorry to tax your patience…I could go on and on, but it’s nearly 9 p.m. Got to go.
Don’t want to miss Arnab.
Jai Pakistani media. Hai Hai Indian media!