Why is Mehbooba Mufti angry with TV channels?

File photo of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti

J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is the latest to express dismay at jingoistic coverage of Kashmir by news channels chasing TRPs; warning them to refrain from cashing in on the Kashmir issue

On a day when Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had returned from the Army hospital after meeting soldiers and their family members who were injured in the fidayeen attack on Sunjawan army camp, where five soldiers and a civilian were killed by terrorists, her office had another piece of bad news for her: a woman was killed in a border village of Rajouri by a Pakistani bullet that came from across the Line of Control.

As if this wasn’t enough, early next morning on February 12, Mufti was briefed about another ongoing encounter between terrorists and the Central Reserve Police Force at Karan Nagar, Srinagar. At least two Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists had been stopped from sneaking into a CRPF camp. An alert sentry had challenged them, thwarting a Sunjawan-like situation. In the process, he was fatally injured.

As he was breathing his last while being taken to the hospital, his colleagues had taken positions around a house where the fleeing terrorists had holed themselves up. Mehbooba could foresee another long haul as the forces were under instructions to minimise damage to property in populated areas for killing terrorists. At the time of writing, the standoff at Karan Nagar had not ended.

[Mehbooba] Mufti’s prediction came true; within an hour, the Times Now channel was streaming a promo in the social media for its primetime debate: “Is Mehbooba a pro-Pak spokesperson?’ News TV channels often use Kashmir as an inflammatory topic for debate since it gives them good TRPs. She slammed the channels: “Aap log tandoor mein rotiyan sekna bandh karein (You better refrain from cashing in on the conflict)”

On Feb 12, Mufti finally poured out her anger at the jingoistic media coverage of the complexity of the Kashmir issue in the J&K Legislative Assembly. She reiterated her demand for talks between India and Pakistan as the only way to end the daily blood-letting in Kashmir. Before that, however, she made a prediction: “I know in the evening, some news channels would call me ‘anti-national’ for seeking a dialogue”.

Mufti’s prediction came true; within an hour, the Times Now channel was streaming a promo in social media for its primetime debate: “Is Mehbooba a pro-Pak spokesperson?’

News TV channels often use Kashmir as an inflammatory topic for debate since it gives them good TRPs. She slammed the channels: “Aap log tandoor mein rotiyan sekna bandh karein (You better refrain from cashing in on the conflict).”

The jingoistic coverage of Kashmir by news channels has caused many in places of responsibility to express their dismay at this trend. Recently, former BBC Urdu journalist Nayeema Mehjoor, who is the chairperson of the State Women’s Commission said that “with such television channels in the country, we don’t need enemies.”

The centre’s interlocutor on Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma has asked Home Minister Rajnath Singh to intervene in ending propaganda unleashed by TV channels in the name of Kashmir. Sharma has apparently told Singh that media debates were causing hurt to the peace-loving Kashmiris, as they painted everyone with one brush.

Similar is the case with the recent stay order granted by the Supreme Court to the execution of FIR lodged against an Army officer Major Aditya Kumar in the Shopian killings. While the FIR and Court order are part of democratic processes, media projection of it as Mehbooba government FIR vs India’s SC order would serve to widen the chasm between India and Kashmir and possibly the Army and civilians

According to a Srinagar-based journalist who didn't want to be named, he was once invited by a TV channel for a debate on Kashmir. "They told me to speak against something; I couldn’t be playing a role in a script written by the channel,” he told this reporter. He and many others have refused to be guests for debates on TV channels.

Since no independent analyst is ready to be part of the noisy debates of channels boasting high TRPs, they pick relative unknowns and wannabes as representatives of Kashmiri people. These commentators speak for extremists and separatists, creating an impression among the viewers that all people in the Valley support terrorism. This adds to the divide between Kashmir and rest of the country.

TV’s coverage of the Army is jingoistic and the debates end up creating a wall between the military and the locals. The 2008 flood in Kashmir is an example of how good deeds of the Army projected in a jingoistic way by the media can generate an adverse reaction.

The floods saw Army men out in boats rescuing people and distributing water and rations to those stuck in devastating floods in Srinagar. However, the media hype about how good Army men were to Kashmiris even after they had thrown stones at them in the past, led to a bad reaction.

Similar is the case with the recent stay order granted by the Supreme Court to the execution of FIR lodged against an Army officer Major Aditya Kumar in the Shopian killings. While the FIR and Court order are part of democratic processes, media projection of it as Mehbooba government FIR vs India’s SC order would serve to widen the chasm between India and Kashmir and possibly the Army and civilians.

Also read: India must talk with Pakistan, says Mehbooba Mufti

Also read: Present situation not apt for dialogue with Pakistan: Congress

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