Journalism is not about patriotism. It is not about ‘my country right or wrong’. Journalism is about the Truth. In India, however, far too often a journalist’s first commitment is to his country rather than to the truth. Nowhere is this more evident than in our reportage on Kashmir and Pakistan. To talk about Kashmir first, we are in complete denial, we toe the government’s line unquestioningly: that everything in Kashmir would be hunky-dory if Pakistan stopped meddling; that Kashmir is actually madly in love with the Indian Army and it is only Pakistan which is holding Kashmiris back from expressing their true feelings about the army, the paramilitary forces and the J&K Police in good measure; that India has done nothing to deserve the violence and turbulence in that state; that the stone-pelters are just paid agents of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.
What is the truth? The truth could be that many Kashmiris are sick and tired of the Indian security forces; the truth could be that Kashmiris are looking for deliverance from the cycle of brutality in which they are caught. The truth could be that India had for years foisted corrupt and venal regimes in Srinagar through rigging and other acts of skullduggery. The truth could be that India had a chance to redeem itself when it brought in Sheikh Abdullah as chief minister of the state, but apart from fostering yet another political dynasty, the Abdullahs have had little impact on the climate of political feeling in the state. The truth could be that the stone pelters are the vanguard of a ‘revolution’ whose immediate political expression is the rejection of India and everything that India has come to represent in Kashmir.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, our media are even more slavishly patriotic. All the usual clichés and stereotypes are summoned whenever our journalists and intellectuals write on the subject. Pakistan is a rogue nation; it is a failed State; it is almost a criminal enterprise; its democracy is a sham...
Everything we say about Pakistan speaks of our hatred and resentment against the country. And yet, we see that Pakistan does not disappear from the map of the world and definitely won’t in a hurry. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may not be accountable, but how accountable is India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and the Intelligence Bureau?
It’s also the naivete of it all. I remember a journalist on national TV saying, “We (India) are better than them (Pakistan).” What does that mean? That Pakistan is an Islamic republic and India, even with its pogroms against Sikhs in 1984 Delhi and against Muslims in 2002 Gujarat is a shining example of democracy? It is India, if my figures are right, that has more than 50 per cent of its children suffering from various effects of malnourishment. India’s regular free-and-fair elections may be the only thing that should genuinely make us proud as citizens.
History has been kind to us. It has provided us with a stick with which to beat Pakistan: cross-border terrorism. So, we can use it as a pretext for not talking about Kashmir where our position is weak. Take the ruckus over Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Sayeed. We want him gagged, arrested, tried and, ideally, executed, no matter what the legal position might be in Pakistan. We insist that Pakistan knows everything about Sayeed’s involvement in 26/11 and that Pakistan is resorting to lies and deception to evade taking responsibility. However, now, according to Home Secretary G.K. Pillai’s recent statement, it’s not Sayeed but the ISI “from start to finish”. What is germane is that no court in the world will convict a mass murderer only on the basis of what two major felons have to say about him. Ajmal Kasab’s and David Headley’s statements need corroboration.
There might be another lull in Kashmir, but this storm will continue to rage as long as the security forces continue to treat the local population the way they do. And the media continue to mix up their job of documenting ‘what is’ with ‘what they want things to be’.
Soumitro Das is a Kolkata-based writer