Gag on Media

Kashmir Times. Dated: 7/17/2016 11:54:47 PM

Instead of healing pain, the government is out to torture masses, muffle voices by choking all sources of information including media

Instead of setting its own house in order by reining in the security forces and police personnel while dealing with masses and street protests, the government's clampdown on media in a midnight swoop is shocking and shameful to say the least. On the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, police raided newspaper offices and printing presses in Srinagar to thwart their publication and circulation by seizing their printing material, newspaper copies, sealing the printing presses and shockingly even picking up and detaining their technical staffers, who were merely performing their jobs. This is nothing short of imposing an Emergency. Internet and mobile phone services already stand banned in Jammu and Kashmir since the last over a week, the Valley is under strict curfew and the worst affected areas have been fully insulated with a huge presence of military making the flow of information rather scarce. The far more shocking highlights of the last one week in the Valley project the horrifying reality of 39 civilians killed and hundreds injured, many of them suffering from life impairing injuries. At least 130 people, mostly young children have lost their eye-sights and many of the injured are still battling for life. The security forces have virtually declared a war against the unarmed people, justifying it in the name of tackling stone-pelters, a response that finds no parallels anywhere else in India, a response that is legally, morally, ethically and humanely unjustified. In this dismal scenario, the newspapers were only performing their professional duty, trying to keep the public informed with whatever little information was available. Needless to point out that they were trying to do this against several odds - lack of information, denial of curfew passes and inability to circulate their newspapers effectively, facing physical threats and incurring huge financial losses. They have been fearless reporting even as their movement is vulnerable to execution of shoot-at-sight orders by trigger-happy security forces and also to the wrath of the stone pelting mobs who sometimes act like the moral police and rebuke the media for what they deem as 'biased coverage'. To have considered the media a threat to peace is ridiculous and further contributes a more horrifying dimension to the already crippling and stifling life under curfew, violence, anger and grief. To have placed curbs on the media and treated it like some criminal entity is unjustified and indefensible. Curbs on such nature also leave vacuum for rumour-mongering and spreading of canards by miscreants and vested interests in the already volatile situation that is prevailing in Kashmir.
Such strong arm tactics to deal with anger and protests are no substitute to addressing it politically or from a humane point of view. The worst kind of ruthless measures are being adopted to suppress the masses and keep them perpetually imprisoned by turning the Valley into a vast prison inside out, by criminalizing its entire population and by resorting to unjust means of torture and brutal killings without allowing people to even scream in pain. By clamping down on the press, the government has stonewalled the last possible space meant for voicing the grievances and bridging the gap with the masses. An unsuccessful and counter-productive attempt is being made to control minds through blocking all spaces of communication and information - snapping phone lines and internet, imposing curfew and now this new unannounced gag on media. Anybody talking about the horrors faced by the public or talking about justice is being treated like a criminal. All voices from Kashmir are being muffled and instead a well oiled propaganda of a section of the Indian media is working round the clock to criminalise the Kashmiris, thus endorsing the denial of the government. What the people of Kashmir are witnessing today is not the humane and democratic face but its ugliest incarnation of worst kind of fascism. This will have a disastrous impact. Use of ruthless measures can only help tire out angry mobs, but not for long. They can't control thought processes or kill sentiments. Such policies have not worked in the past. In 2010 and 2013, curbs were placed on the media and the Valley newspapers were unable to function for weeks. This time, the midnight action portrays an uglier and harsher picture of how the State is functioning against its masses by declaring an open war. Such actions have brought only temporary calm but every time the anger of the masses resurrects with a much greater resonance than before.



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