Why is Indian media biased towards Kashmir?

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by M J Aslam

Neither exaggeration nor a lie, the fact is that the Indian [private]media reporting on Kashmir is highly partisan and prejudiced. All news reports and editorials in print and electronic media are always slanted against the actual ground realities in Kashmir.

Is this phenomenon anything new vis a vis Kashmir or it has a history? Has it happened for the first time during BJP rule or since 1990? Historically, it is nothing new. It has its origins in pre-partition Kashmir when the Dogra despots were ruling the roost between 1846 and 1947.

The absence of “real private” press and autocratic censorship on anti-government-news before 1947 forced the Kashmiri leaders to get their letters published in Muslim Press of British-Punjab at Lahore. The Muslim Press included Inqilab, Siyasat, Zamindar and many other newspapers, which regularly highlighted the miserable conditions and adverse circumstances in which Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir were living under autocratic Dogra rule.

Late Munshi Mohammad Isaaq of Muslim Conference who had business outlets in Rawalpindi used to bring with him copies of the newspapers, magazines and periodicals of Muslim Press from Lahore.

British India’s Hindu Press comprised newspapers, Pratap, Amar Ujala, Guru Ghantaal and Milap. All these newspapers were openly supporting the despotic Dogra [Hindu] rulers and lending direct support to their suppressive policies and arm-twisting measures against overwhelming Muslim majority of 85% by enticing the monarch to invoke the provisions of the draconian law like the Indian States (Protection against Disaffection) Act 1922  (also called the Princes Protection Act, 1922) against [Muslim] leaders and subjects for raising voice against injustices and tyranny of beggar [unpaid slave labour], deprivation of equal opportunities of employment and education, back-breaking exorbitant taxation and many other monarchial ills of the durbar.

In their columns and editorials, these newspapers would advise the monarch to declare 85% Muslim subjects and their leaders as “rebels”, “seditious” and “anti-government”. This was done by the journo’s and editors of the Hindu Press under what is nowadays commonly known as the doctrine of “national interest”.

However, it was a clear “polarization” of the Press. It won’t be wrong to call it demonisation of the poor Muslims and demeaning their sufferings by the Hindu journalists for a Hindu Raja. They were working with Punjab’s Hindu Press, much before Partition.

History repeats itself. Today, we can compare Muslim Press and Hindu Press of pre-partition days of erstwhile Punjab, respectively, with local Kashmir Press that highlights the “ground realities” of Kashmir, at the one end, and Indian mainstream media, print as well as electronic, that totally blacklists the “actual news” from Kashmir in “national interest”.

In the words of a veteran journalist, Ved Bhasin, there has been a complete “criminal silence”, on the part of India media about what has been going on inside Kashmir since decades. The “partisan” reporting of Indian [private]media about Kashmir doesn’t need any introduction. In fact, such biases have been inherited by Indian Press right from pre-partition days of Hindu Punjab Press.

Post-partition, leading Indian national papers like Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Times of India, and other publications, carried on the past legacy of anti-Muslim Hindu Punjab Press of pre-partition days. The same prejudices by twisting and turning the actual facts to suit the “official narrative” were reflected in their news reporting, editorials and opinions during all phases of important political developments of Kashmir. Such developments included unceremonious dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah on August 9, 1953, Plebiscite Front days (1953-1975), holy relic theft (1964), Pandit agitation (1967), MUF’s participation in assembly elections of 1987 and massive rigging thereof, and many other important events of Kashmir since 1947.

The one-sided pro-establishment reporting, opinions and talk shows on the political history and events of Kashmir by Indian mainstream media are usually propaganda tactics to obfuscate, distort and fabricate the actual facts about Kashmir and repackage disinformation in such a manner with “nationalistic-masala” applied by hyper Hindu nationalist journos and anchors so that it is heard, tasted well and relied upon blindly by common Indians as “patriotic truth”.

M J Aslam

So, the present day “propaganda” news reporting, editorials , columns and opinions appearing in parts of Delhi mainstream media has roots in pre-partition days of biased Hindu Press of erstwhile Punjab that outrageously, from an independent journalistic point of view, always defended the suppressive rule and strong-arm governance of Dogra rulers with their Muslim subjects.  Many times there is a complete blackout of Kashmir news. All this is done by so-called private media of India to espouse the cause of palingenetic ultra-nationalism.

But despite their efforts to misinform the Indian public and the people of the world through “propaganda” journalism, it is not possible, in this age, to conceal the facts under the wrappings of lies. Days of Joseph Goebbels, the erstwhile head of the Nazi Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, are gone. In this electronic age, nothing at all, no news, no events, no happenings, taking place anywhere in the world,  can be put behind the curtain because the communications flash across the continents and the sub-continents faster than the light.

(The author is academician, storyteller, a freelance columnist and a AVP in JK Bank. Ideas expressed in this article are personal.)

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