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

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.

Whither right to food? Social security scheme allocation for woman, child 'reduced'

Counterview Desk Pointing out that women and children have been ignored in the Union Budget 2021-22, the advocacy group Right to Food Campaign (RtFC) has said that the Government of India should have taken into account the fact that even after the lockdown was lifted, distress among marginalized communities continues, with people having lower incomes and reduced food consumption.

NAPM extends support to Indian, Aussie citizen groups 'opposing' Adani ventures

#StopAdani action in Australia  Counterview Desk  The civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), extending solidarity to the global campaign by the Youth Action to Stop Adani (YAStA), held in recently in Australia and India, has said that the effort was to bring more attention to the struggle aboriginal, indigenous peoples, farmers, working class and other oppressed communities against allegedly anti-people multinational corporate conglomerates.