Anil Chamadia who heads Media Studies Group came up with startling facts in his survey about mainstream Hindi media and their understanding of Kashmir issue. He tells Saima Bhat that Hindi journalists see Kashmir from a piece of land perspective, neglecting people’s narrative.
Kashmir Life(KL): First of all tell us something about yourself?
Anil Chamadia (AC): I started writing in the newspaper in 80’s and then in 1995 I joined a TV channel, which was India’s first 24 hours news and current affairs channel. After that I almost left commercial media and got involved in media research and teaching. In 2006, I joined Indian Institute of Mass Communication in Delhi and taught there for three years. Later, I was appointed as professor of Mass Communication at Wardha based central university. There I stayed for less than a year. Then, I and my students formed Media Studies Group (MSG) which has done more than twenty surveys so far.
Since last five years we are publishing two monthly journals – Jan Media (Hindi) and Mass Media (English).
Some of our surveys like the one on Social Representation in National Media were largely appreciated. We published two special issues on Kashmir and Media published in Jan Media.
KL: Your research about Hindi journalist’s knowledge of Kashmir was quite revealing. What was the thinking behind this research?
AC: Hindi speaking belt covers the larger area in India. So, Hindi newspapers and magazines play a major role in shaping public opinion on Kashmir and it matters as a majority language under parliamentary democracy. I chose Hindi journalist for this surveys because they have stereotype image of Kashmir. Besides, the bias exists among the Hindi journalists.
In terms of shaping the identity of language, political forces play a major role. Two dimensions of Hindi can be understood here. Hindi as a language with communal identity was shaped under politically motivated ‘nationalist Hindi’ which means it vanishes the element of ‘republic Hindi’.
The republic Hindi which could have become the language of our diverse society is gradually communalised to shape under nationalist Hindi. The element of bias in Hindi language poured under nationalist Hindi against the diverse society of India.
So the Hindi media retained the same biases for different communities. Not only for Kashmir, but Hindi media is equally bias towards other communities of India like, north-east, Punjab, against Muslims, Dalits and the backward communities.
Hindi media has symbolised Kashmir with anti-nationalism where as in reality journalists have no idea what Kashmir is.
KL: Have you ever visited Kashmir? Or tried to listen to the other side of the Kashmir story? Or your understanding or ‘insensitivity’ towards Kashmir too is based on second hand information?
AC: Yes, I have been to Kashmir in the 1990’s. I was leading a team tasked to study the role of media and it’s scenario in Kashmir. Around same time, through Press Council of India (PCI) report, the GOI tried to establish Kashmir’s media as pro-terrorist which means it is promoting terrorism. But what we found there and what was believed earlier was totally different.
After the visit, a meeting held in press club of India criticising the report of PCI as well as the others.
KL: What were the most startling facts that came to fore while doing the research on Kashmir? Please share a few?
AC: The role of journalism must be in support with the development of democracy and equality of the country. Thus, people of every region, religion or different language or different communities should be given special attention to express their sensitivities whether they belong to any oppressed or deprived sections in terms of caste, region or religion or even language. This is an important principle of journalism. My understanding of Kashmir is majorly based on the conversations with the people of Kashmir and dialogues with those, including academician, who are expert in this area as well.
KL: Do you think lack of understanding about Kashmir issue in mainland India is adding to the crisis?
AC: There is lack of understanding about Kashmir issue. It is not surprising even that there is not a single book which can be taken as mirror of facts and analysis regarding issue of Kashmir or Kashmiri people.
KL: Do you feel Kashmiris are right when they blame ‘mainstream Indian media for distorting facts without knowing the issue fully’?
AC: Yes, our recent survey establishes the same. I think till the time you do not connect with the people you cannot get aware of the facts. The lack of facts and without any knowledge of the factual information, the whole report can be fabricated which could present biases in many sense. The ground work and concern with the issue can only bring out the factual information which could make you understand the reality.
KL: How this Kashmir illiteracy among Hindi based journalists can be managed so that they become part of an honest and object reportage of Kashmir narrative?
AC: We are trying that Kashmir related issues and the historical facts should get reported even in Hindi media. This is what we need to do for promoting democracy. Those working in Kashmir or the Kashmir media should also address to the Hindi people. Hindi media plays an important role in forming public opinion in major parts of India. Hindi speaking people should see the reality of Kashmir so that they can feel the pain of Kashmiris.
KL: If I am not wrong, you once said: ‘separatist feelings against Kashmir have been cultivated within you’. Reason?
AC: This idea of separatism is actually presented by dominant sections of majority for minority and this case relies same everywhere even in caste, in religion or in region etc. This trend has led the feeling of suppression among minority. I think in a healthy democracy the majority needs to examine themselves that why they are not able to connect with the minorities rather than to blame the minority.
For Kashmir, this is where the problem lies. We have always seen Kashmir as a piece of land with no connection with the people. After 1947, we attacked the very concept of Kashmiriyat. The focus remains with the segregation of Kashmiris either as Hindu or as Muslims.
The politics of segregation may fulfill the immediate requirement of politics of power, but it communalises the religious identity and leads to clashes between communities.
The cultural part may connect Kashmiri with the people of India but the politics of India believes more in religion and so communalising the society.
But on the other side Kashmiris have no history of being communal.
We only know Kashmir as a piece of beautiful land, not as a place where people live. For me people of Kashmir are more important than the land. People like me have been misinformed about Kashmir thus cultivating biases. In fact, it has been cultivated in our social environment.
We have journalists of a caste, religion or a region but not journalists who fight for truth. We have not developed a culture of democracy. Actually, they cannot be called journalists; they just work for media houses and fight like an army to acquire land and power. But they do not fight for truth or facts. Just like casteism, communalism and regionalism harms in building up a nation, political nationalism harms democratic institutions.