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From Kathmandu to Kashmir: Why the Indian media is more patriotic

Naseer Ganai
Naseer GanaiMay 05, 2015 | 13:41

From Kathmandu to Kashmir: Why the Indian media is more patriotic

As the hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia started trending on Twitter, many Kashmiris joined in to point out what media did in Kashmir during the devastating floods of 2014.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "The local reaction to Indian media coverage in post-earthquake Nepal is eerily similar to the reaction in post-flood Srinagar last year".

A journalist from Kashmir tweeted sarcastically: "Breaked News: India's PM Narendra Modi says #GoHomeIndianMedia is a conspiracy of Pakistan to defame brave armed forces of his country #lol".

When floods submerged Srinagar on September 7, 2014 and all of us lost track of our families and friends, Delhi-based news channels flooded Kashmir as their local correspondents were either trapped or invisible.

Instead of identifying what happened to people, these reporters from Delhi took the Army and NDRF boats and started looking for separatist leaders. Where are the separatists, shouted some of them in their dispatches.

A news channel showed that the Army rescued the separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani. The anchor of the channel shouted that Geelani was trapped in the top floor of his house and was rescued by the Army. To justify this anchor's harangue, the channel showed the visual of some unknown old man being rescued by the NDRF. Seeing the pictures, the anchor shouted, "Geelani has no problem in reaching for Army's help. The hand he regularly bites, metaphorically".

However, it is another story that the area where Geelani lives was not touched by the floods.

Then came the turn of another separatist leader Yasin Malik. Many news channels said Malik hijacked the boat of an NGO carrying food items for flood-affected people and started debates about the issue at 9pm with the hashtag #FloodOfTreachery. "Traitor capitalises on tragedy;" the story ran for several days.

However, in Maisuma police station, an FIR is registered against the NGO affiliated to the Congress for stealing relief material of the separatist leader, Muhammad Yasin Malik.

In the devastating flood where 13 lakh people of Srinagar were facing a crisis of monumental proportions, the media didn't see any suffering, only Geelani and Malik.

An anchor of a TV channel asked another separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq whether he would at least now "appreciate the role played by the armed forces" in the rescue efforts. Mirwaiz who was himself carrying out relief work in old city, informed the anchor that help should come from every quarter, including United Nations.

For several days, news channels ran debate programmes like, "In Kashmir, 'occupation force' hailed as saviour," "Forces - real heroes," "Kashmir floods - the tireless service of a battalion and its boats."

On the ground, however, the situation was terrible as there was no rescue operation going on at a large scale. Even Omar Abdullah said there was no government for three days.

Instead of presenting the devastation caused by the floods and the suffering it inflicted upon people, anchors of top news channels were giving a different spin to story, suggesting how ungrateful the Kashmiris would be if they would seek international resolution of the Kashmir issue or talk about revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

A leading anchor of a news channel underlined this. She had taken an Army boat and thrust a mic under the nose of a man trapped in his house, "Aur koyi aaya aapki madad ke liye, Army ke bagair?"

Such was the ferocity of the mainstream national media's urge to project the Army's rescue operations in Kashmir that even the Army was alarmed and subsequently top Army commanders admitted the national media did the forces a disservice.

Meanwhile, a cartoon which has gone viral showing an Indian Army jawan in Nepal with a rescue kit on his shoulder and media person in his pocket taking his video, is not drawn by Nepali cartoonist. It is a Kashmiri cartoonist Mir Suhail who made it for a Srinagar based English daily.

Last updated: May 05, 2015 | 13:41
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