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Perceptions of Kashmir

The Kashmir problem has become a monster and nobody knows how to handle it in a balanced manner. It is yet to be understood in its totality and is instead analysed in bits and pieces everywhere, especially in the media. Erudite and informed panellists and so-called Kashmir experts have set a malicious trend, linking the issue of human rights abuse to a chain of irrelevant and extreme factors, including Wahhabism and Salafism, unemployment, religion, foreign funds, and the involvement of a foreign hand. Nobody bothers to understand the actual rage and alienation on the ground.

The Kashmir problem has become a monster and nobody knows how to handle it in a balanced manner. It is yet to be understood in its totality and is instead analysed in bits and pieces everywhere, especially in the media. Erudite and informed panellists and so-called Kashmir experts have set a malicious trend, linking the issue of human rights abuse to a chain of irrelevant and extreme factors, including Wahhabism and Salafism, unemployment, religion, foreign funds, and the involvement of a foreign hand. Nobody bothers to understand the actual rage and alienation on the ground.

The media bias and selective coverage is such that even Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed her anguish over it. The national media, mostly based outside the state, have adopted a partisan nationalism highlighting selective incidents that suit TRP requirements. These channels provoke the invited speakers from Kashmir only to ridicule and falsify their arguments to satisfy the so-called collective consciousness. It is not that people do not want to know the truth about Kashmir, however, media gatekeeping has ensured that only violent and sensational incidents are shown to the masses, who have now developed a villainous perception of Kashmiris. Most mainstream media are consistently asking the wrong questions and getting people to believe the wrong answers repeatedly. The fact remains that every new incident is taken and analysed in isolation and everyone gets to hear Pakistan, proxy war, Jihad, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), for completely different questions or incidents. This media bullying has led to another disastrous trend, that of reduced participation of sane voices from Kashmir on national television debates or other platforms.

The media glorifies stone-pelting incidents in the state and the debates are not about why people throw stones or what their grievance is. Instead, questions about who funds the protests abound and these incidents are linked to radicalisation in the valley. Even students who are protesting are not spared and their protests are addressed through pellets and other violent means. Media does not highlight the plight of journalists, atrocities by security forces, state repression or routine violence against common Kashmiris, instead choosing to cover a live encounter for hours together. A shift is required in understanding the present Kashmir, which yearns for peace, but remains arrested in violence because these issues are unaddressed.

The results are obvious when a doctor at a public hospital in Chandigarh denies treatment to a Kashmiri patient under the premise: “You throw stones at our security forces in the Valley and come here to seek treatment.” What does “our security forces” mean when everyone outside Kashmir firmly believes that Kashmir is an integral part of India? Kashmiri students, too, are harassed in many colleges in the country and many a time treated as parasites or foreigners. Similarly, when Kashmiris seek tenant accommodation they are seen as potential suspects.

My brother, who is an officer with the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, was transferred to Greater Noida some time ago. He wanted to rent an apartment near his bank than live with me in the Muslim-dominated Jamia Nagar, which is 40 kilometres from his workplace. He found an apartment soon enough and purchased some basic utilities in anticipation of moving in. However, within hours of the confirmation, the landlord cancelled the deal. The problem was that he was Muslim, and a Kashmiri at that, and also that he may want to cook meat someday! Since then, he has been rejected by six other houseowners. Currently, he commutes from my place to work by Uber cabs, which cost him a steep ₹1,200 per day. Now my brother is too scared of the prevailing atmosphere and wishes to stay with me only. Nobody is ready to give him a place of residence because he is a Kashmiri Muslim! The credit for this entire mess goes to the media that has presented a different picture of Kashmir, which is distinct from the real Kashmir.

Adfer Rashid Shah

NEW DELHI

Updated On : 19th May, 2017

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