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

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.