Open Letter to the Indian Media

Silence by the Indian media over the recent mass uprising in Kashmir has surprised me. There was a continuous curfew for 9 days, civilians participating in peaceful protests were killed, there was a scarcity of essential needs, political activists were detained, local TV channels and local newspapers were banned, journalists were beaten up and wounded but the Indian media did not care.

The Supreme Court of India in 1986 in the case Indian Express v. Union of India held “that the press plays a very significant role in the democratic machinery and the court ruled that Freedom of press has three essential elements. 1) Freedom of access to all sources of information, 2) Freedom of publication and 3) Freedom of circulation.” In the case Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India the Supreme Court held “that the freedom of speech and expression (press freedom is part of this right) has no geographical limitation.” It seems as if these judgments do not apply on Kashmir? The media in Kashmir were subjected to restrictions but the Indian media did not use their tools and their freedom, which are guaranteed by the Supreme Court of India, efficiently to prove solidarity with the media in Kashmir. Was this just because this inalienable right was under suppression in Kashmir and not in Delhi or Mumbai? Was this just because the journalists who were injured belonged to ‘Greater Kashmir’, ‘Kashmir Images’ and Local News Papers’ not to ‘Hindustan Times’ or ‘Times of India’?

Many reports and TV programs are made in India which strives to make politics and government establishments more transparent and accessible for the common man. Innumerable corruption cases, accountability committees and investigation processes have been brought to light by the Indian media. But the Indian media has failed to make such reports or programs about Kashmir. Has the Indian media ever thought that violence only, could not be the sole cause of corruption, poverty and bad governance? The Indian media has never published reports investigating government’s expenses in Kashmir. The Indian media has never tried to investigate why the Dal Lake still is a drain whereas millions of Rupees have been spent on its clean-up. The Indian media has never tried to discover that almost every government’s job is either given to relatives of Ministers or sold for Lakhs in Kashmir. My humble question to the Indian media is the same as the Indian media and the inheritors of knowledge and truth should ask themselves: Why?

Section 167 of the CRPC grants the right to every person in custody to be released on bail if no charge sheet is filed against him/her within 90 days of custody. In Kashmir there are numerous detainees who are languishing in jail under the Public Safety Act which allows detention for up to two years without charge or trial on the purported presumption that the arrested may in the future commit acts harmful to the state. This law has its origin in the Defense of India Act (DIA) during Colonial British Rule. The DIA was described by Gandhiji as a draconian and black law. Why isn’t the India media reporting this abortion of Human Rights and thereby upholding Gandhiji’s values? Is Kashmir that hard to find, whereas Amnesty International and other international bodies are having no problem in locating Kashmir and have already published various reports condemning the PSA. Again my humble question to the protectors of freedom is: Why?

There are 6 Lakhs youngster in Kashmir who are suffering because of unemployment. Many of them have University and College degrees. Indian media has been quick to attribute this sky high unemployment rate to militancy. Has the Indian media ever tried to research whether the militancy could be attributed to the high unemployment rate? No report or article has ever tried to outline what the government is doing about this high unemployment rate. The Kashmiri youth is only interesting for the Indian media when their hands are cuffed by the suppressors. But they are not worthy of news when their hands hold a pen and a degree while their stomach is empty.

Noted columnists like Arundhati Roy, Vir Sanghvi and Swaminathan A. Aiyar have tried to bring the recent developments in Kashmir to the common man in India and made Kashmir’s secession a matter of common debate. They defied the mainstream mindset of the Indian media of neglecting the uprising and wrote on the basis of truth and morality. The approach of the mainstream Indian media has proved that the estimate of Reporters without borders, which ranks India 120th worldwide in Press Freedom Index, is close to reality.

Life comes to a standstill in India and live telecast is shown on all major channels whenever there is an encounter between militants and security forces. It is quite common that a grenade blast by militants captures the headlines for two days in every national Channel and newspaper. This time there were no grenades or Kalashnikovs involved. There were a million men, women and children on the streets demanding the right which was promised to them by Indian leaders like Mr. Pandit Nehru. Protestors were holding peaceful demonstrations and were still attacked by the security forces which used lathe-charge, teargas and even bullets to suppress and oppress the popular uprising. Even women and children were not spared. People were injured and killed by ‘Democracy’ and the heirs of ‘Democracy’ watched the dance of death as silent spectators. How humiliating for the Kashmiris and how hypocritical and shameless of the Indian media that these events were not good enough to capture the headlines in major newspapers and were not showed on news channels. Is the Indian media afraid that by showing these events in a truthful way it will trigger the same reaction from the Indian people as the reactions of American and French people during the excesses of their security forces in Algeria and Vietnam?

We Kashmiris are also human beings and entitled to some inalienable rights. The duty of the media is to report our wishes, grievances, problems and thoughts in order to provide citizens with information and trigger common debates. It is not the duty of the media to judge whether the wishes, grievances, problems and thoughts are right or wrong or in the national interest of India. The judgment should be left upon the people.

Hashim Qureshi
Chairman: JK Democratic Liberation Party.