When the Pakistani high commission re-issued a reporter's walkthrough, it probably foresaw that the video from a sanitised location in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) would at least stir India's chronic, colonial hangover because of its global branding. And it did, to an extent.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted slyly:
BJP, I m convinced that strikes took place. But intl media publishing Pak propaganda that no strike took place. Lets expose Pak propaganda https://t.co/oIGa2yLhO0— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 4, 2016
The AAP leader shrewdly latched on to the reportage by the global press from a small radius of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir along the 770-km Line of Control.
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam went a few steps ahead in this low-grade demagoguery, labelling India's swift cross-LoC operations "fake". He went on to tweet:
Having spent 18 years in journalism, I was unable to fathom anything explosive or penetratingly investigative in the third-party footage that the Pakistani high commission circulated on its WhatsApp group for Indian media.
|It's a message that bear hugs with world leaders and CEOs of multinationals mustn't be construed subservience. Photo credit: Reuters|
Other international news outlets were no startlingly different either. They too published what Pakistani military fed them from a valley neighbourhood of PoK.
If standards of western journalism are higher than in the developing world, none of those media houses, in the first place, should have accepted the offer of a PoK trip sponsored and guided by a military engaged in hostilities with a neighbouring nation. They should have gone on their own, if they could.
How can you expect objectivity from reporting coming out of a tour organised by a defensive army to a select, picturesque mountain hamlet ensconced in what in reality is a highly dangerous de facto border between nuclear India and Pakistan?
It goes without saying the military on the other side of the LoC will never show terror assets to the outside world or the annihilation that India's special forces unleashed on a few of them last week.
The operative part that lay buried in the forest of words several media of international repute characteristically published from their rare visit to PoK was nothing more than a "he-said, he-added" narrative.
Still, some of India's shrewd politicians and so-called analysts lapped up the western reportage in their bid to fuel suspicions over India's swoop on the other side of the LoC. Kejriwal was one among those who led this wily campaign.
The AAP convenor is a product of media publicity, both positive and negative. But he and trolls who support his tactics take no time to pounce on journalists who speak about his alleged administrative incompetence.
India's media, which some members of foreign press in Delhi scornfully refer to as local media, has come of age. It has forced judiciary to act, voters to react. It has built and demolished leaders.
Who would have known Kejriwal if he wasn't covered protesting alongside Anna Hazare when the UPA was in power? Who would have known Sanjay Nirupam either had there not been "local media" around?
Their pictures and foot-in-mouth outbreaks are beamed into Indian homes by Indian stations and not global.
Our "local" journalists have far deeper access in the country's security, political and business establishments than foreigners could ever have.
What western press is gifted with is only superior packaging and, of course, better English, perhaps.
But in journalism, content is king. Junk food is never healthy even if it's served in some of the world's most popular eating joints.
Unfortunately, Kejriwal, the likes of him and fellow citizens who placed higher credence on the west's "he-said, he-added" reporting over their nation's own DGMO suffer from inferiority complex. And this condition probably stems from colonial hangover.
They can learn a lesson or two from Baba Ramdev, who has nearly overwhelmed the MNC reign of the FMCG sector. The western press that once mocked his untamed beard, saffron loin and yogic posture stands in awe of him now. But he remains untouched. And that's wonderful.
India's LoC assault is a message to the world it has crossed the boundaries imposed on it by western powers. It's a message that bear hugs with world leaders and CEOs of multinationals mustn't be construed subservience. It's time to get sober from our colonial past.