Skip to main content

As a consequence of press gag in Kashmir, vague rumours float about in Valley

By Anand K Sahay*
Aside from the communications lockdown and the jailing of leaders of the non-BJP parties, a major casualty in Kashmir has been the sanctity of the news flow on account of tight surveillance.
This has come in the way of letting the country know of the stifling of the public voice, of practically all economic activity, and of the experience of people’s interface with the security forces present in fighting gear.
Thus, the unreal parades as the real. The media is crudely suppressed -- both television and print. With the closure of the Internet, the social media -- egregious though its contents can be -- is dead.
The newspapers in the Valley, which used to be lively if somewhat partial to the separatist aspiration, have been obliged to become the government’s voice exclusively. There is a sorry dullness and unanimity about them. The government’s spokesmen have full play. No other entity has any say.
Editorials, which reflect a newspaper’s opinion on key issues, are not written now. Long, boring, articles on esoteric and arcane themes typically fill the op-ed space. District correspondents have little work to do.
Very slow internet lines have of late been made available at district headquarters for use by people in emergencies. The same lines are also meant for the media. The process takes long. In any case, news that is fit to print does not make the cut. Hawk-eyed minor officials see to that.
The Congress leader and former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was in Baramulla about three weeks ago. Some half a dozen delegations called on him (several were prevented from doing so). The local journalists got their stories by talking to them, but these could not be filed, some of them told me. The unofficial censors would not let them.
The editor-in-chief of “Greater Kashmir”, the English-language paper with the largest circulation in the Valley, was recently called to New Delhi by the National Investigation Agency for questioning. The Kashmir correspondent of a television channel, who had shown up the discrepancy in an official claim, had to be hurriedly called to headquarters for a temporary period as a protective gesture. The message has gone down the line.
As a special dispensation, on their request, senior journalists in Srinagar were offered the restoration of broad-band Internet connections in their offices (so that they may avoid the inconvenience of having to queue up to email their reports from the government’s media centre where the wait can be long), provided they signed an undertaking that they would not “misuse” the facility. Since the meaning of this term was not made clear, there were no takers.
Editorials, which reflect a newspaper’s opinion on key issues, are not written. Long, boring, articles on esoteric and arcane themes typically fill the op-ed space
As a consequence of the press gag, everyday happenings cannot be reported. Drawing the big picture is out of the question. Vague rumours float about. Mostly, people are kept unaware of events happening even near their homes. What they consume in dollops, though, are the national television channels, which the government chose not to interrupt when the clampdown came on August 5. These tend to be downright derogatory to the people of Kashmir and injure their pride, turning in the knife psychologically and deepening alienation.
Visiting Baramulla’s congested old city recently, I learnt there have been frequent public protests. The papers cannot carry such news. In Srinagar, the proprietor of a successful hardware store says he has kept his establishment shut for a long time. He says there are no construction trade workers left in the Valley, not even a handful to load goods into trucks.
A government advisory issued on August 2 raised fears and drove the approximately 4.5-5 lakh workers- just under 10 per cent of the Valley population -- from other states out of Kashmir. They were farm labourers, construction workers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, motor mechanics, even shopkeepers. All fled. A transporter in Baramulla, whose business has also suffered badly on account of the policy-imposed labour constraint, confirms this.
The impact of the serious labour shortage on Kashmir’s economy is yet to be assessed. The short-sighted advisory has since been recalled. But the non-state workers, a large chunk from Bihar, have not returned. Local media reports are unable to offer an understanding of any of this. That would amount to discussing the current situation. That is out of bounds.
In Shopian, a political figure explains that Kashmir valley is mostly a “middle class” place, unlike other states. Nearly every family owns a car or two-wheeler. Sometimes these choke roads, although shops and schools and colleges are shut. The reason is that public transport is off the roads and government employees must attend office. The sick must be taken to hospital. There are social visits to make. Visuals of tight traffic have been presented on national television to suggest normality in Kashmir, and as a sign of happy acceptance of their present fate.
(Concluded)
---
*Senior Delhi-based journalist, who was recently in Srinagar, Baramulla and Shopian. This is the fifth and last article in a series on ground realities in Kashmir following the August 5 crackdown. A version of this article has appeared in the “Asian Age”

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.