The Mortgaged MediaThe
media in Kashmir have probably done more than
terrorist organizations themselves to make organised
violence at the hands of fundamentalists glamorous and
successful. Violence, of course makes a good copy. It
makes an exciting reading, and in a free Press,
journalists report and editors print what they believe
to be exciting for their readers. In Kashmir,
newspersons even provide terrorists with an ideal
forum for the contextual justification of the latter's
acts. They, in part, enable terrorists to assume the
'mask of omnipotence' rather than the 'mask of
villainy'. They believe in sensationalising the
stories - being more interested in tears and grief
than in the substance of the story - and go to any
length on account of their obtrusiveness and
preconceived notion. In this particular context the
freedom of the Press is being consistently abused or
at least manipulated cynically and irresponsibly.
Militancy, terrorism or secessionism, besides Islamic
fundamentalism, did not grow overnight. Neither did the trend of misreporting
from Kashmir. It originated and flourished in phases. Describing it, O.N. Dhar -
a former bureaucrat and a freelance journalist - in an article in the October
13, l 990 issue of The Hindu observed: "Distortions in reporting on Kashmir
have been endemic ever since freedom came to this former fiefdom of the
Maharajas and playground of the colonial rulers in the aftermath of an invasion
by tribal hordes and Pakistani irregulars in October 1947. While the people
under Sheikh Abdullah's leadership were valiantly fighting to hold back the
onrush of marauders dispatched by Jinnah to punish them for having shown
disrespect to him during his visit to Srinagar on the eve of the partition, some
London newspapers were reporting that Kashmiris had risen in revolt against the
Hindu Maharaja and were fighting for being a part of Pakistan!
"In 1953 when the Sheikh - the then Prime Minister
of J&K - reacting to a violent agitation in Jammu against the alleged
Kashmiri domination spoke of an autonomous status for the Valley, an influential
segment of the national Press had no qualms in charging him with a desire to
carve out a 'Sultanate of Kashmir' with himself as its sultan! His son, Dr.
Farooq Abdullah, who was the darling of this same Press from 1981 to 1985,
suddenly became an object of derision and even hate as soon as he became an ally
of the Congress.
"Stalwarts of the State's freedom struggle such as
the late Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq whom the keepers of
the nation's conscience portrayed as heroes during their tenure as Chief
Ministers (Prime Minister and Chief Minister, respectively) came to be branded
as 'quislings ' by some of them under the impact of the new 'awakening' brought
about by the fury of the guns and grenades let loose by the
'militant-liberators' in the unfortunate Valley by the Pak intelligence
agencies. What Pakistan's systematic disinformation could not achieve in a span
of over four decades was accomplished by its armed mercenaries in less than two
"A section of the Indian media, it seemed, had
suddenly felt the pangs of conscience and wanted to wash itself clean of an
accumulated guilt of decades. That the process should have laid bare their
fragile beliefs, their own lack of conviction in the sanctity of the Fourth
Estate and the superficiality of their past and present perceptions and
formulations could hardly have bothered these historians in a hurry."
Commenting on the same subject, Peer Gayas-ud-Din - a
prominent politician who also edited Daily Chinar from Srinagar in the seventies
- wrote in his book Understanding the Kashmiri Insurgency: "Press in
Kashmir in pre-Independence and post-Independence phases manifests sharp
ideological and political divergences in its approaches to the problem of
communalism, and secularism . . . The events took a sharp turn. There was thaw
in the realm of journalistic pursuits. Newspapers surfaced on the scene but the
people's 'right to know' was polluted, misused . . . Look to the files of
dailies of Srinagar, during the Bangladesh episode or on the Kashmir problem one
can mark the stance. The canards were spread regarding newspapers holding values
and professionalism. One can make a difference after perusing the files of the
"Examine the files of leading Urdu newspapers in
the Valley since 1965 till date; one will notice the cynical and amoral
stand-point and judgment of values as reflected in the Kashmir media and the
self-serving reading of the Pak situation."
Two booklets, published by the Directorate of
Information of the J&K State Government in August 1989 - when the Farooq
Abdullah Government wanted to introduce Press censorship - are replete with
glaring misuse of the freedom of the Press, particularly by the Srinagar
newspapers. Journalists succeeded in stalling the Press Censorship Bill by
pointing out that there were already a number of laws and provisions to bring
the guilty newspapers and newsmen to book.
However, the Srinagar Press continued to lift anti-India
and processionist articles and interviews from the Pak newspapers and publish
them prominently in their columns.
The Srinagar Press has been caught between the devil
and the deep sea as it faces physical danger from terrorists if it refuses to
toe their diktats and, on the other hand, the pressure from the Directorate of
Information if it fails to discharge its duties effectively in the surcharged
atmosphere. No wonder, Mohammad Shaban, editor of the Al Safa, was assassinated
by terrorists when he wanted to carve out a position for himself among
terrorists by allowing the use of the columns of his newspaper for a section of
terrorists and condemning the others. On the other hand, P. N. Handoo, and Syed
Ghulam Nabi, Assistant and Joint Director of the State Information Department
respectively; and Lassa Kaul, Director of Srinagar Doordarshan Kendra, were
assassinated. Significantly all the three, overtly or covertly, adhered to the
lofty slogan of ' Kashmiryat'.
The mushrooming of local news agencies is a peculiar
phenomenon. These agencies are generally a one-man show and cyclostyled news
items are fed to local newspapers. No one knows their charges and keeping in
view the financial conditions of most of the local subscribers (nothing more
than scandalous sheets), one is tempted to presume that the local news agencies
get nothing in return. However, these services are subscribed to by the
embassies of some middle east countries in New Delhi at a fabulous amount. These
agencies often act as platforms for terrorist outfits. The programmes of
boycott, black-out and hartal are circulated for the public through these
So preoccupied are local newsmen and newspapers with
the activities of subversives, terrorists and their mentors across the border
that they seldom have time to cover other activities. In late October 1989, the
North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC), with its headquarters at Patiala in Punjab,
organised a cultural show at Chandahar, a village, about 15 km from Srinagar.
J&K State is a member of this centre. Chandahar is the village where
Kashmir's famous poetess Habba Khatoon was born. The Governor was the chief
guest at that function. The NZCC had arranged for vehicles to take journalists
to that village that evening but only two representatives of the national
newspapers and a correspondent of an English language weekly from Delhi,
attended the show.
In mid-1989, the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI)
opened its office in Srinagar to boost industrial development. Shortly before
the 1989 Lok Sabha elections, the local manager was instructed by his Delhi
office to publicise the achievement of his branch in local newspapers. He
approached one of the prominent newspapers from Srinagar with a Press note. The
owner-cum-editor of the paper glanced through the Press note and asked for Rs.
200 for its publication. The IDBI manager was taken aback. He pointed out that
it was a Press release, not an advertisement. The editor said that in that case
Rs.400 would be charged as a news item gets more attention. The manager pleaded
his inability to oblige the editor as he had no funds at his disposal for such a
job. As the IDBI man rose from his chair to leave the office, the editor
reminded him that in any case the IDBI officer would have to cough up the
Similarly, without caring to acquaint themselves with
even bare facts and cross-check the information - provided gladly by most of
local journalists - some of visiting newspersons contribute handsomely to the
disinformation campaign on Kashmir. In one such case, Sukhmani Singh wrote in
the September 22, 1990 issue of Saturday Times, a supplement of The Times of
"The room where we meet 25-year-old Aasiya Andrabi,
head of the largest women's militant organization in the Valley,
Dukhtaran-i-Millat 'Daughters of the faith', (which is sympathetic to the
Jamaat-e-Islami, a fundamentalist organisation) has no connections to luxury or
aesthetics. Its mud splattered walls are adorned with stark Arabic and Urdu
posters and pictures of the Prophet." Stars were favourable for her and the
newspaper as such a glaring example of blasphemy went almost unnoticed;
otherwise the entire country, particularly north India, would have been in
flames. Such distortions and misreporting, often bordering on a sustained
disinformation campaign, go on not only in the Indian media, but also in foreign
newspapers and news agencies.
A double-column story in The Hindu under the headline
'Policeman shot in Kashmir' in its issue of April 18,1990 stated - "A
policeman was reported to have been stoned to death, but official confirmation
was awaited. There were clashes between demonstrators and the police in interior
areas of Srinagar city. Police authorities said 14 Kashmir policemen were
injured in stone-throwing". The story was filed by its stringer, who was
also working for The Statesman and AFP. The story, creeded by AFP, was picked up
by the Pak TV which in its evening news bulletin on April 17 highlighted the
same without quoting the concerned foreign news agency. The State Information
Department which preferred to ignore such glaring distortions or blatant lies,
however, took up the issue with the concerned newsman and the agency. The agency
expressed regrets and sent a TP message to its stringer at Jammu which stated,
"We have withdrawn last night at 11 p.m. (On April 17) news item regarding
demonstrations held in Srinagar as directed by you . . .
In a news report on April 19, 1990, The Hindustan Times
stated: "The official spokesman vehemently denied the story in a Delhi
newspaper, which was simultaneously released by AFP and was picked up by the
Pakistan Television, that there were clashes between the security forces and
demonstrators in Srinagar city during curfew relaxation period yesterday. He
described the news item as a figment of imagination, aimed to check the process
of normalization in the Valley.
"He said that there was no incident like the
stoning of a policeman to death by demonstrators in Srinagar yesterday. He
claimed that AFP had later withdrawn the story and expressed regrets."
Earlier, AFP had created a fear psychosis at the time
of the brutal assassination of Mir Mustafa - an Independent member of the
J&K Assembly - by a terrorist group. The Pak TV in its evening news had
highlighted its story that the 'freedom fighters' (terrorists) had prepared a
list of about 150 persons, including some journalists, who would be accorded the
fate similar to that of Mir Mustafa.
No wonder, in a dispatch from London, P. Sharma -
Special Correspondent - stated in The Hindustan Times in its issue of February
15, 1990: " It is the familiar theme being orchestrated against India. The
Kashmir mayhem has always been the pet subject to pillory India. Things were
different when Islamic fundamentalists were trying to run the Valley, dictating
their terms to the authorities, bombing newspaper offices, murdering political
dissenters, intimidating ordinary men and women, some of the latter even being
forced into purdah (veil). Here was quandary for the Western media people in
Delhi; fundamentalists were not fighting for democracy or human rights as is the
case in most areas of the world. They were, on the contrary, fighting for the
abolition of democracy and human rights in favour of a medieval bigotry.
"The Guardian correspondent Derek Brown describes
them as 'freedom fighters'. When terrorists are trained and armed across the
frontiers in a repeat of the Islamabad's unsuccessful Operation Gibraltor, the
damning evidence is either underplayed or simply dismissed.
"This is the abiding impression one gets on
reading British newspaper dispatches from Delhi. Once more it is India that is
in the dock over Kashmir. To begin with, the British correspondents were quite
appreciative of how things had come to the present pass. For instance,
Christopher Thomas of The Times described how Kashmir had been reduced to a
Valley of Fear 'by a particularly hard-line fundamentalist group called Allah's
Tigers. The new kind of Kashmir - one that is in the unfamiliar grip of Islamic
fundamentalism, imposed ruthlessly by extremist organisations that now virtually
control day-to-day life in the Valley. It said that everybody was scared,
politicians to journalists.
"Emotive references to the massacres of Muslims
were wholly unsubstantiated and based on hear-say. This is not to say that the
police and Army action in Kashmir has been pleasant. No realist believes such
action in any part of the world can be without its trauma. But the crucial point
is the rule of law and democratic life were violated by force of arm by Kashmiri
"However, the Guardian tried to controvert New
Delhi's contention that anti-India Muslim malcontents in Kashmir were receiving
Pakistani arms and training. The paper dished out: Some captured guns, allegedly
made in Pakistan, and the odd appearance of the white and green flags in the
riot-torn streets of Srinagar hardly amounts to proof.
"The Guardian's editorial later commented on the
appointment of Jagmohan as the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, 'This was an
unfortunate choice: Jagmohan took tough anti-Muslim measures during his previous
tenure as Governor frorn 1982-88'. The 'tough' measures were not
The fact is that the first term of Jagmohan was from
1984 to 1989 and even his worst detractors acknowledged that he had won the
hearts of the populace of the State, including Muslims. During his six months'
stint as a Governor he had initiated a number of welfare measures.
In its issue of March 28,1990, The Telegraph (London)
carried a double-column story Army called out in Kashmir after riots over calf's
head. It was filed by Arun Joshi of the Associated Press (AP) in Jammu. The
first para reads: "Hindus and Muslims fought each other with knives, iron
rods and rocks in Kashmir yesterday, prompting the Indian Government to call out
the Army and impose a curfew. At least three people were injured in the first
clash between the two communities since Islamic separatist violence flared up
two months ago in the region, police said." The 12-para story vaguely
mentioned in the sixth para that the clashes took place in Jammu, the winter
capital of Jammu & Kashmir. The last four para described the history of the
secessionist movement in the State since 1948.
Such irresponsible and unsubstantiated news coverage by
foreign news agencies led to some journalists in India conclude that terrorists
were getting commands from Pakistan or the killings in terrorist-affected states
of India were by remote control. O. N. Dhar wrote in an article in the March 30,
1990 issue of The Statesman: "Authorities in Pakistan should have chosen to
throw all caution to winds and announce through radio and TV that militants had
demanded the release of 10 of their men in exchange for the release of Mir
Mustafa although no such demand was at any stage made in Srinagar by
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen which claimed responsibility for kidnapping the murdered
Kashmiri leader. Mlustafa was, in fact, executed in cold blood much before the
expiry of the 36-hour time-limit set by Pak electronic media (attribution to AFP
notwithstanding), most probably because Hizb-ul-Mujahideen operatives did not
consider it safe enough to linger on with his forced detention.
"Even more significant than the broadcast of terms
for Mir Mustafa's release by Pakistan media was the broadcast on Monday that 'an
important politician' had been kidnapped by the 'mujahideen' in Kashmir in order
to secure the release of their arrested comrades. The broadcast led to a flurry
of activity in Srinagar's official circles in order to find out who the
'kidnapped politician' was. Though the announcement proved abortive, it has
strengthened the assessment in Srinagar that the 'mujahideen' are now getting
direct commands from Pakistan."
In an article in the April 14, 1990 issue of The
Tribune from Chandigarh, Assistant Editor Swaraj Chauhan wrote: "It appears
that the killers in Kashmir were waiting for a message from New York. It came in
the form of a front page news item in The Indian Express quoting Jammu &
Kashmir Liberalion Front chief Amanullah Khan declaring that the kidnapped
persons had been killed.
"A few hours later the assassinations were carried
out and the bodies of Mushir-ul-Haq, Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University,
Abdul Ghani, his private secretary and H. L. Khera, General Manager of the
Hindustan Machines Tool Limited (HMT) were cynically left on the roadside by the
killers in Srinagar in spite of heavy security."
In the light of all this, when a correspondent of AP,
an international wire agency, presented a ball point pen to Governor Jagmohan in
the first week of Feb .1990 during one of the latter's regular Press briefings
at Raj Bhawan, Srinagar, the Governor retorted, " I hope it does not write
the AP language".
A news report in the issue of March 19,1990 of The
Nation (Pakistan) carrying the byline of Ghulam Nabi Khayal - the Srinagar-based
correspondent of the newspaper - is a sample of notorious reporting from
Srinagar. The report states:
"Srinagar - it looked like an invading Army
shooting, looting and ransacking whatever came its way. All over, there were
screams, lamentations and cries of grief. Children seemed a haunted lot and
women showed sudden appearance of fright. Most of the young men had gone into
hiding fearing persecution. The terrified faces and locked houses in two
localities in Srinagar bore testimony to what could be called brutalities
committed against civilian population by the security forces. This is what this
correspondent witnessed while going round Old Chanapora and Lal Bazar in south
and north of Srinagar city.
"In Old Chanapora, in south of the city, out of a
total of 200 families about 150 have left their houses. 'They now live with
relatives and in rented rooms elsewhere,' said Abdul Ahad, a lawyer and an
eyewitness to the brutalities by the personnel of the Indian Central Reserve
Police Force (CRPF) on March 7. The CRPF came to the locality in search of
"Freedom-fighters not belonging to the locality
made good their escape but the residents of Old Chanapora had to bear the brunt
obviously for no fault of theirs. About 200 CRPF men entered into houses and
started beating up men, women and even children. A middle-aged woman carrying
her broken television set and a transistor said, 'This is what they did to us.
My young daughter fearing molestation jumped out from the second story and broke
her arms.' According to, Ghulam Nabi Dagga, a respectable man, three unmarried
girls in the locality were raped by the security men. 'I can't give you their
names because they are yet to be married. They have also left the area.' A young
woman - Noora - said, 'They entered into house, beat up my husband mercilessly
and tried to rape me.'
"A working woman said, 'Look, this is the real
face of Indian democracy.' She said that some officers of the Kashmir Armed
Police had come to the locality afterwards and offered some cash relief to the
affected people. 'They looted our honour. Will they pay us for our honour?' A
young man Manzoor Ahmad interrupted saying: ' We are not going to accept
anything from these Indian dogs.' Outside on the main street, despite relaxation
in curfew, hundreds of security men were seen patrolling the locality with their
automatic weapons and stenguns and other rifles brandishing in a way as if they
were about to shoot. A medical shop - Haleem Medical Store - and the nearby
mosque had also been ransacked.
"In Sadar Police Station, the concerned police
officials confirmed that residents of Old Chanapora had filed first information
report complaining of 'a CRPF raid on houses, molestation of women and looting.'
"The report also said that the CRPF men had
attacked these houses under the command of a Sub-Inspector, Pillai, who also
threatened to shoot another Sub-Inspector of the Kashmir Armed Police, when he
tried to stop Pillai from this act. An officer of the Indian Border Security
Force told this correspondent, 'it seems that even dacoits of Chambal Valley
would not indulge in such inhuman acts.'
"On March 15, in north Srinagar yet another action
took place. The area looked deserted after about 750 residents had already fled
to safer places. It was the aftermath of a cross-firing between freedom-fighters
and para-military forces.
"When CRPF men entered into the houses for purpose
of arresting freedom-fighters 'they fired indiscriminately on people.' A young
man, Ghulam Rasool, said that he was dragged out of his house and asked to stand
up near a ditch in a lane, 'you tell us where other young men have gone or we
will kill you.' The mosque in a locality had been ransacked extensively. Copy of
the holy Quran was torn to pieces and scattered all over on the floor and
outside. The loudspeakers, microphones and amplifiers were lying in the
prayer-hall after having been damaged beyond repair.
"They entered into the mosque with the shoes and
destroyed everything in this place of worship, said Mohammad Amin, a labourer.
'I have yet to see such brutality committed on innocent people'. He complained
that Rs. 500 had also been taken by CRPF men from his pocket."
All this is being reported from Srinagar, where it is
alleged that the Press has been gagged and censorship enforced. Paradoxically,
all these allegations are being hurled by those Kashmiri local newsmen - working
for Indian, Pakistani and foreign newspapers as well as international wire
agencies - who are, unwiliingly or willingly espousing the cause of separatists,
secessionists and Islamic fundamentalists in the Valley.
They also get support from established commenlators who
have not visited the strife-torn Valley for years hut are always eager to come
forth with long articles on the subject.
Admitting that until he visited Srinagar a few days
ago, he had no realisation of how perilously close we were to great
complications in J&K, S. Sahay in his column 'A Close Look' in The Tribune (Chandigarh)
wrote in its issue of February 20, 1990, "It was reported that the Border
Security Force and the local armed police had clashed resulting in the death of
a local policeman. The local policemen marched in procession in protest and they
too raised slogans against India. The situation was defused by the
administration by promising to hold an inquiry into the death of the policeman
and consequently trying and punishing the guilty according to law. Rs. One lakh
compensation to the relatives of the deceased was promised. When asked where the
corpse was, senior local officials lamented that it was nearby; however, when it
came to handing over the cheque to the dead policeman's relatives, it was found
that actually no policeman had died.
". . . Some people charged that the news coming
out of Kashmir emanated from Jagmohan's imagination: concocted partly to justify
severe treatment of the Press. My inquiries revealed that there was no reason to
doubt Jagmohan's information. The havoc caused to the State by the incompetence
of the Farooq Abdullah's Ministry is unbelievable. Terrorists, grandiosely
called militants, had a free run of the State and, according to one official
report, a number of officers even saluted them.
" . . . What has been role of the Press? One need
not tar the whole of the Srinagar Press with the same brush but it needs to be
noted that there are no less than 30 dailies and about 100 weeklies. Most of
these dailies can claim no more than bare existence and their sole purpose is to
wangle such Government advertisement as they can. Among the leading dailies are
Aftab, Srinagar Times, Al-safa, Wadi-ki-Awaz, Nawa-i-Subah, Quami-Awaz and
Hamdard. The point to note is that while some of the papers are independent,
some others bend to the will of terrorists under fear, while some advocate their
"Srinagar papers did not function between January
20 and February 14 and only seven of them hit the stands on the last mentioned
date. The reason for non-publication was the rigorous imposition of curfew
between January 20 and 26. Curfew passes were valid only until 9.30 p.m.
"There is no doubt that the administration took
vigorous steps to prevent any untoward happening on January 26. The Press
suffered in consequence- No one, far less a journalist, would approve of
restrictions, that too not legally announced, on the Press, but a journalist is
also a citizen and he cannot altogether lose sight of the realities prevailing
on the ground. The administration was dealing with an extraordinary situation
involving nothing short of the physical integrity of the nation and if certain
foreign journalists were asked to leave the State, it is, in this writer's view,
understandable, especially when there is a tendency to exaggerate or even
concoct news . . .
"As far as Indian journalists are concerned, some
feel that one's nationalistic fervour should not colour one's professional
outlook. Others (including this writer) feel that a journalist is a citizen too
and he cannot act in a vacuum. As long as J&K is a declared and accepted
part of India the national perspective cannot be overlooked. One must stand for
the freedom of the Press and fight for it, but one cannot forget the fact that
the freedom is not absolute. There has to be a harmonious balance between the
freedom of the Press and the security of the State. Feigned measures by the
State must be protested against and there must be insistence on free and fair
coverage of news and expression of views but one must also take into account
that this freedom is under attack not only by the Government but also by
terrorists. While those believing in civil liberties can put pressure on the
State to go easy, there is precious little that they can do when it comes to
terrorists. The media is under ferocious attack. A TV director - Lassa Kaul,
Director of Srinagar centre of Doordarshan - has been killed. A Resident Editor
has been threatened. Part of the Srinagar Press lives in fear, part in sympathy
Sahay along with K. Narendra of the Pratap had gone to
Srinagar in the first week of February 1990 to make an on-the-spot assessment on
behalf of the Editors' Guild of India, an independent body. Somehow, three of
the four 'outsider' journalists succeeded in meeting them (journalists not
belonging to the State used to be dubbed by local journalists as outsiders and
Viceroys. One was not at Srinagar at the time). They also submitted the
following note to the visiting team. The note is the portrayal of the nefarious
media game in the Valley.
It said: "The competitive threatening and
manipulations against the national media by the numerous subversive outfits
(which are backed by some local journalists also) reached such an extent that a
few days before the imposition of the Governor's rule, the Kashmir Times (Jammu)
published a report, credited to a subversive outfit that 'some journalists are
functioning as the agents of Delhi'. It warned them of dire consequences and
forewarned that the name of those journalists would be published soon. Anyway,
the measures, after the Governor's rule was imposed, could check the further
"Some of local journalists had been quite
irresponsible about the reporting of terrorism related news. Even the Kashmir
Times - a Jammu-based English daily with a sizeable circulation in Srinagar city
- had indulged in vilification campaigns against Saifulla Lone, an upright
Station House Officer of Maisuma Police Station in downtown Srinagar and Neel
Kanth Ganjoo, the judge who sentenced Maqbool Butt to death, till both of them
were gunned down by suspected terrorists. The police officer was shot dead when
he was coming out from a mosque after offering morning prayers.
"P. N. Bhatt, a prominent advocate and social
worker of Anantnag used to write for various local and outside publications on
issues related with Kashmir. A local journalist did a whisper campaign in
Anantnag town that Bhatt was a RSS man and was writing for Hindu fundamentalist
publications. Following such campaign, Bhatt was shot dead in broad daylight in
"The same Kashmir Times wrote in the lead news
about kidnapping of the daughter of the Union Home Minister, 'an innocent Muslim
girl was kidnapped by the so-called JKLF, a terrorist organisation in the name
of Islam' . Since last week of January (1990), Kashmir Times has stopped
publishing the reports of its Srinagar correspondent and photographs by its
lensman, and instead has started using agency stories.
"Most of the local dailies and Kashmir Times from
Jammu used to act willingly or unwillingly as the handouts of terrorists. They
used to give ideas to terrorists by announcing new programmes of subversion (in
the name of one or other outfit), indulge in exaggerated reporting about the
anti-Indian protests, publish sensational photographs of anti-Indian activities.
Arranging bogus interview of underground leaders and supplying enacted photos to
visiting Indian and foreign journalists was also a big money-spinning business
for some local journalists.
"The latest development in the Valley and the acts
of the authorities of the same newspapers prove that they were playing to an
extreme end for petty political and personal interests. Most of the reports and
photographs, they had published, appear to be fabricated, judging by the recent
acts of their editors.
"The atmosphere of fear and threat, developing in
Kashmir before the Governor's rule, could be gauged from the fact that some
newspapers had started calling subversives as 'mujahideen', others as 'freedom
fighters'. The national dailies also shifted from the word 'terrorists' to
'militants' after the local Doordarshan and radio (where infiltration of
terrorists is no less) started using the more respectable word.
"The Information Department of the State
Government is in a mess. The flow of information has started pouring in only
from January 28 this year (1990). It should be streamlined and overhauled to
help newsmen in covering the State without any discrimination of any sort -
State, case, creed, colour, region and religion.
"The editors of the national dailies and magazines
can help in improving the things. They should discourage rat race among the
national news agencies and correspondents, stationed here (Srinagar) in getting
prominence even at the cost of sacred facts. some papers have part-time
correspondents to cover this State. The Hindu and The Statesman are among such
papers. The stringers should not be allowed to go berserk for the sake of more
and more lineage. The editors should also discourage the planted stories about
Kashmir from the centre of publications of the newspapers.
"The Tribune (Chandigarh) in an issue in the first
week of February, 1990 had the Srinagar story as lead. The story was about the
bomb blasts in Kashmir Valley on that day though none had been injured in these
incidents. The story was datelined Srinagar, while the Srinagar correspondent
has been allowed to operate from Jammu as his life was in danger'. In the same
issue, the Punjab story of killing of seven bus passengers was elsewhere on page
one and credited to the agencies.
What to say, even the resident editor of a national
daily did not hesitate in acknowledging in one of the news reports that he was
writing as a Kashmiri.
"Many visiting Indian journalists expect from
Kashmir juicy, sensational and anti-Indian stories to happen for reporting and
photography during their sojourn of two or three days. If nothing happens, many
of them try to manufacture such stories and photographs with the help of local
aides who wait in the wings for such opportunities.
"Regarding January 21 incidents, The Sunday
Observer carried a report by a visiting correspondent in which it was stated 200
persons were killed on that day and machine-guns were reportedly used against
civilians. The same correspondent, who also wrote another story about the curbs
on the Press, too, should have listened to Pakistan Radio and watched Pak
Television which have a big clandestine network in the Valley and are always in
the forefront of the anti-Indian campaign. The Pakistan Radio had reported that
so far 100 persons have been killed in Kashmir. But The Sunday Observer puts the
figure of casualties at 200 and The Sunday Mail at 150. These are some instances
of petty efforts of sensationalism and unhealthy competition among journalists.
"The news agencies also receive telephone calls
from anonymous callers claiming to represent various terrorist outfits. They
often threaten that if their version is not carried in the Press, the journalist
would be in trouble.
"Though the State Governor started holding daily
Press conferences at the Raj Bhawan after one week of assumption of the office
for the second term, only correspondents of two national wire agencies and two
or three national newspapers used to attend them. Local Kashmiri Pandit
journalists had already shifted to Jammu, the winter capital of the State, and
preferred to cover Srinagar from there and Kashmiri Muslim journalists
representing a number of Indian newspapers published from centres other than
Delhi as well as foreign wire agencies and newspapers did not attend the
Governor's regular Press conferences."
A summary of codes, culled from media and journalistic
organisations as reported in In the Camera's eye: News Coverage of Terrorist
Events, edited by Yonah Alexander & Robert G. Picard, urges a journalist (1)
Not to rely on terrorists or authorities as sole sources; (2) Balance the volume
of news on the incident so that other news of the day will not be crowded out;
(3) Provide context, perspective, background, possible motivation of terrorists,
and causes of the incident; (4) Not to use inflammatory catchwords or report
rumours; (5) Report terrorist demands and deadlines but do not provide a
platform for terrorists and (6) Not to participate in incidents or serve as a
negotiator. But local journalists in Kashmir are doing just the reverse of such
voluntary guidelines. Perhaps they are aware that terrorism would be impotent
In an essay on Terrorism and International Security
Lord Chalfont admits: "There is a tendency to search for some kind of bogus
intellectual objectivity and to regard the terrorist on the one hand, and the
police officer or soldier on the other, as two sides of a morally symmetrical
confrontation. In publications of otherwise impeccable respectability, the
phrase 'State Violence' is used to describe military or public action against
violent subversives and terrorists. This language often results from the sheer
incapacity to distinguish between an attack by a violent minority on the
institutions of a democratic state and the right of that state to defend itself
against such an attack.
"In dealing with terrorism, the question of media
involvement has to come very high on the list. Almost all solutions ultimately
depend on the way they are communicated to people throughout the world who rely
upon the information system provided by the mass media. The corruption of
language must be resisted. Freedom fighters don't murder innocent business men
going about their lawful trade; murderers do that. Liberation movements don't
set fire to farm-houses; terrorists do. Terrorists don't interrogate prisoners;
they torture them. Terrorists don't execute informers; they murder their
However, most of Srinagar journalists continue to
indulge in misreporting and intentional at that. Yusuf Jameel reported in The
Telegraph (Calcutta) in its issue of January 23,1990: "Conflicting reports
are pouring in on the toll of the number of persons killed in the firing by the
Army and para-military forces in various Srinagar areas yesterday (Jan.2l).
Unofficial sources said the toll was between 50 and 65. People claimed that
security men threw many bodies in the Jhelum, after shooting protesters at
nearby Gow Kadal and Basant Bagh localities." Nowhere in the 11-para story
carried in three columns on page one was any official source quoted. The story
does not tell readers that in January the temperature at Srinagar is often below
zero degree. There is hardly any movement in the Jhelum river. Moreover, on both
the banks of the river, meandering through the city, boatmen live with their
families. Any event of throwing a body in the river cannot go unnoticed.
After three days, in its issue of January 26, the same
paper in a story filed by the same journalist mentions, at the fag end of the
long story: " There was a public demonstration at Habba Kadal when a body
was fished out of the Jhelum. However, officials said that the deceased was a
Government employee who was missing since mid-December and that his death was
not connected with the recent incidents".
Another interesting feature of reportage from Kashmir
was the unhealthy competition between the two national wire agencies - UNI and
PTI. In order to outwit the rival (as they call each other) they would not mind
exaggerating the number of casualties and the persons injured in bomb blasts or
exchanges of fire between terrorists and the security forces. In one such
glaring instance, a PTI visiting special correspondent filed a story on the day
after the release of Dr. Rubayya Sayeed - daughter of the then Union Home
Minister - from the captivity of terrorists in exchange of the release of five
hard-core terrorists. He overruled objections from his colleagues and fellow
journalists and went ahead to file a story that the entire Kashmir Valley was
put under curfew though only five towns in the Valley - namely Srinagar, Sopore,
Baramulla, Anantnag and Sopian had been put under curfew. Next day the PTI story
was published hy almost all the newspapers as most of them did not even believe
the version filed by their own correspondents. Even the Indian television -
Doordarshan - and the All India Radio used the PTI story. Next day the official
media used the contradiction but the damage had been done. The PTI correspondent
neither had any regrets nor did he suffer any guilt feeling.
The local Kashmiri (Pandits and Muslims alike)
journalists had a sort of cartel in filing the stories. They used to capture the
Central Telegraph Office at Srinagar and hijack the stories filed by other
journalists. During the days of the captivity of Dr. Rubayya Sayeed, a local
journalist who was working for a number of newspapers and international wire
agencies, filed a story to one of the newspapers on telex from the Central
Telegraph Office. As soon as the story was cleared, came the prompt reply from
the receiving end on the telex, 'Thank you Mr. - - for the story but we are not
the newspaper to which you wanted to file the story.' The story had landed at
the office of another newspaper but the journalist failed to take notice of this
as, sometimes, he himself forgot the number of newspapers he worked for. The
mutual arrangement between the members of this loose cartel, no wonder, often
led to publication of similar stories in various newspapers.
The local Urdu language newspapers which played havoc
even before the situation seemed to be beyond redemption in December 1989,
continued in the nefarious game of misinformation. Some of them acted as the
mouthpiece of secessionist outfits and lifted long interviews of terrorists
leaders, published in foreign newspapers, particularly from Pakistan.
The exaggeration in respect of casualties was exposed
in The Indian Express in a news item in its issue of March 31,1990. Under the
heading 'How many died' the New Delhi datelined item ran: "How many persons
have been killed during the last three months in Kashmir Valley? Professor
Saifuddin Soz, a National Conference member of Parliament has alleged that 450
persons have been killed since the imposition of Governor's rule in the State on
January 19 this year (1990).
"The figures given by him, authoritative sources
say, are highly exaggerated. The State administration has asked him to indicate
the names and addresses of all the 450 persons he claimed were killed.
"According to official figures,137 persons have
been killed between January 19 and March 28.43 of them were killed by militants.
61 persons were killed in defensive action by the police and paramilitary
forces. 31 subversives or militants were killed by the Army guards when they
attacked Army convoys or school buses carrying children of Army personnel and
two persons were killed by the security forces protecting a United Nations
Similarly, on March 1, 1990 the Army opened fire on
unruly mobs at two places. Zafar Meraj filed in his story for The Independent
(Bombay): "21 people were killed and over 50 injured, six of them seriously
when the security forces opened fire on a pro-independence procession near
Zakoora village on the outskirts of Srinagar. Five persons were killed on the
spot, while 16 others succumbed to their injuries after admission to the Soura
"Reports said the incident took place when a 5,000
strong cavalcade, shouting pro-independence slogans and waving flags of
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and other militant organisations, reached
Zakoora from Nishat.
"An Army convoy that was passing by, was
reportedly provoked by the anti-India slogans. Reports said some of the jawans
jumped out of their vehicles and opened fire. Five persons died on the spot,
while of the 30 others who were wounded and rushed to the Soura Medical
Institute,16 succumbed to their injuries. The condition of six persons was
reported to be critical." But the fact is that no casualty took place.
Yusuf Jameel filed in The Telegraph (Calcutta):
"While a big procession was coming towards Srinagar city from the nearby
villages, it was met by gun-wielding security men travelling in three lorries.
Eyewitnesses said a police sub-inspector on duty at the Zakoora orossing tried
to persuade the security men to
keep their vehicles off the road till the procession passed. However, the
security men refused and allegedly snatched the "Azad Kashmir" flag from
an old man among the processionists. The crowds then started shouting slogans
which perhaps provoked the security men who opened fire. At least 13 persons
were killed and 15 wounded in the firing, doctors at Srinagar's Sher-i-Kashmir
Institute of Medical Sciences said. Unofficial reports put the death toll
at 18. No official explanation was given for the firing." Nowhere in these
two dispatches it was mentioned that the Army fired at two places at Zakoora
Delhi papers and national wire agencies reported that the firing took place
at Tengpora following an attack on the Army school bus by secessionists.
The Committee for Initiative in Kashmir (CIK), a human rights organisation,
alleged that the Army had fired on demonstrators who had been returning
home in buses. It alleged that all the schools in the Valley were closed
and, in any case, there was no school near the spot of the firing. Since
the Army School, contrary to the CIK report, was open, the Press Council
of India's Committee headed by B.G.Verghese, former Editor of The Hindustan
Times and The Indian Express, dismissed the charges of alleged excesses.
an attempt to assail the Verghese report, Rita Manchanda - a journalist
- wrote a two-page long rejoinder in The Economic & Political Weekly:
"Verghese did not think it necessary to call upon the CIK and ask it to
present its evidence." Manchanda has, however, failed to take notice of
a few letters in various Delhi newspapers by the parents of students of
the Army School. They all stated that the Army School after winter vacations
had been opened on February 26, enabling the students to appear in the
examinations of all classes barring 10th and 12th for which the Central
Boald of Secondary Education (CBSE) was to conduct the examinations. But
Manchanda went to add that "had Verghese done so (to call CIK for presenting
its evidence), he might have found that the school had been opened in the
morning to enable senior students to take their exams. According to the
Army version, the two Army vehicles were carrying 37 children of Class
I to X. The firing took place in the afternoon after 3 p.m., when the children
would have all been back home. Also, people familiar with the topography
of Srinagar argue that it is highly improbable that an Army School bus
would be moving towards Tengpora on the national highway leading to Baramulla."
perhaps is not aware, or does not want to know, that due to excessive cold
in the Valley in the first week of March, the examinations were held from
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. After taking the examinations the students were returning
home. The bus was not bound for the Army School at Badami Bagh. In fact,
it was on the way back from the Army School. A good number of Army personnel
live near Bemina on the national highway leading to Baramulla on the outskirts
of the city. In fact, Rita Manchanda was taken for a ride by her sources
at Srinagar, including a disgruntled senior officer from the Indian Administrative
Service. Manchanda, any way, is not alone in her repeated failure to sift
grain from the chaff while covering Srinagar.
majority of newsmen visiting Srinagar to cover incidents often have made
the mistake of jumping to conclusions at the mere sight of green flags
with crescent and star atop mosques, houses and shops. For them it is the
Pakistani flag. Local guides (often newsmen) gladly consent to such conjectures.
Similarly, Indian flags are available in plenty at Srinagar because burning
of the Tricolour (Indian flag) makes a good copy. Three local lensmen offer
such pictures at exorbitant rates. The visiting newsmen return gladly with
a good copy and good photographs. What is more, local lensmen would not
allow photographers from other parts of the country (foreign ones are different)
to shoot. In one such incident on the day (February 13) of the brutal assassination
of Lassa Kaul - the Srinagar Doordarshan Kendra's Director - Sanjay Sharma,
staff photographer of The Hindustan Times was prevented from taking the
photograph of a demonstration of women under the aegis of the Dukhtaran-i-Millat,
being held at the Pratap Park on Residency Road (Maulana Azad Road). Sharma
was allowed to shoot the women's procession only at the intervention of
a peon of PTI who was also there.
CIK also jumped to another conclusion in its report that ' it should not
surprise us that Kashmiris are ambivalent about Indian journalists and
their commitment to give information without fear or favour which depicts
the ground reality". The reason, given by the CIK was that "on top of this,
the Governor has, in the name of safety, alleged to have transported some
of local journalists from Srinagar including one who reportedly took all
the furniture and fixtures which are the property of the J&K State".
However, neither did the CIK name the journalist nor did it check with
the Estate Department of the State or with the newsman it seemed to have
in view for stealing the State's property. The moot question is: Is it
fair on the part of the CIK to make such baseless allegation and jump to
conclusion? Why did it not check the antecedents of newsmen who supplied
such information to it? It could not simply because at least one member
of the said CIK had herself been a beneficiary of favours extended by Chief
Minister Farooq Abdullah for making a documentary on Kashmir.
the purpose of such committee (CIK) and other human rights organisations
was served as a number of observers and editors commented on the excesses
made by the security forces and turned a blind eye to the activities of
the terrorists. One human rights activist - Inder Mohan, who having a personal
grudge against Jagmohan, went to the extent of alleging that five hardcore
terrorists were exchanged for the safe release of Dr. Rubayya Sayeed, from
the captivity of terrorists by Jagmohan. He preferred to forget that
at that time (December 1989) Dr. Farooq Abdullah was the Chief Minister
and Jagmohan took over as the Governor of the State for the second term
on January 19,1990 - more than a month after the release of Dr. Rubayya
Sayeed and five hardcore terrorists.
fact, the atmosphere was so vitiated that Arun Joshi, the then stringer
for The Times of India and AP, besides holding the post of the Chief Reporter
of The Kashmir Times at Jammu, mentioned in The Times of India in its issue
of June 27,1990 under the heading MILITANTS' MOUTHPIECES: 'Writing pro-militant
stories and blacking out facts has become a routine preoccupation with
a section of journalists in Kashmir. There is no doubt that they are working
against heavy odds but there have been very few occasions in the recent
past when they have been able to give out an objective picture of the situation.
the administration too has not tried to dispel the impression which these
journalists have tried to create that the security forces are the 'real
culprits' for all the ills faced by the people in the Valley.
who have dared to report objectively or put things in the right perspective,
have been hounded out of the Valley and forced to operate from the safe
environs of Jammu. For example, the two news agencies, PTI and UNI, have
part-time correspondents in Srinagar (in fact they are TP operators and
are cousins) whose account of the situation is at variance with what their
staff correspondents file from Jammu. If the Jammu-based newsmen grossly
depend on official hand-outs, those reporting from Srinagar tend to send
what militants would like them to. There is also a tendency among the latter
to ignore the official version and give out the exaggerated claims of militants.
the examples cited in this connection is the confusion among journalists
about the identity of the assassins of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq.
to that, when the Jammu & Kashmir Students Liberation Front denied
that it was responsible for the killing of Abdul Ghani, private secretary
of Kashmir University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mushir-ul-Haq, who was
also executed by terrorists, the Srinagar journalists simply lapped it
up. And recently, when five masked terrorists killed three members of a
family of a minority community (Kashmir Pandits), one of the militant groups,
the Islamic Students League, said that no militant group was involved in
it. Instead, it blamed some Government agencies for the incident.
too was unquestioningly put out by the journalists, even though they know
that militant groups in the Valley are operating at cross purposes. There
have been occasions when the responsibility for attacks on the security
forces has been claimed by more than one group."
Manchanda in The Sunday Observer in July 1990 admitted: "Today, in the
Valley, it is journalists - foreign or Indian - who have per force- become
one of the few remaining channels of communication between militants and
the administration . . . Restricting further avenues of dialogue was the
arrest of mainstream politicians like Abdul Ghani Lone of the People's
Conference, Shia leader Maulvi Abbas Ansari and the People's League activist
Shabir Shah. In effect, this has meant the removal of the moderate politicians
who might have once served as a bridge." Manchanda perhaps did not read
the political situation correctly as all the politicians mentioned, including
pro-secessionist Lone and Maulvi Ansari, had been rendered irrelevant and
sidelined under the present circumstances. Moreover, Shabir Shah had been
arrested in the last week of September 1989, much before the grand and
grave collapse of the Kashmir Administration as well as of the law and
added in her dispatch: "In this vacuum, it is journalists who have emerged
as 'neutral' intermediaries in an ongoing civil war. A fact, which was
highlighted during the drama over the release of the Israeli tourist Yari
Izhakki. Indeed, it was three journalists who worked out with the JKLF
acting chief Javed Mir Nalqa, the conditions under which the United Nations
Military Observer's office in Srinagar would take the eventual custody
of the Israeli as demanded by militants.
actual release was the stuff racy thrillers are made of. The journalists
were directed to a 'safe' house in downtown Srinagar, where the Israeli
was hidden. Bundled into their blue Ambassador (car), the Israeli, masquerading
as a French journalist, was taken past scores of the security pickets and
handed over to Major Pekia Hannukkai, the UN representative. Meanwhile,
at least 15 journalists in a conspicuous cavalcade of three cars were taken
through a dirt trail to a houseboat hide-out on Nagin Lake. Here, Nalqa
awaited, eventually addressing a Press conference which announced the release.
Attired in a khaki shirt and trousers, complete with a cowboy hat and an
ornamental pair of white-rimmed sun glasses, Nalqa outlined details of
the release to a 'chosen' few.
being associated with militants has its own pitfalls. In the Valley being
' neutral ' for Srinagar-based journalists often means reflecting only
the version of militants, as was evident in the reportage of the Swedish
affair. Echoing the spokesman of the Muslim Janbaz Force (a terrorist outfit)
most local journalists insisted that the two Swedes had been 'released'.
Even at the Pless conference addressed by Jan Ole Loman and Johan Janson,
the Press corps was positively hostile when the Swedes gave details of
their escape. Ironically, journalists present could offer no explanation
as to why the Swedes should have lied about their escape."
fact, some Kashmiri Muslim journalists were already engaged in providing
megaphones to terrorists and their claims, sometimes tall ones. In her
book Kashmir: Behind the White Curtain, Khem Lata Wakhlu recollects the
role played by Zafar Meraj: "Zafar Meraj, Bureau chief of The Kashmir Times
in Srinagar was the main person through whom some contact had been established
with militants . . . Zafar Meraj was doing everything he could, meeting
militants, coming to Mufti's home, meeting the Press. It appeared that
he had a major role to play in seeking the release of Dr. Rubayya Sayeed
and deciding her fate.
long last the day of Rubayya's release approached. On 13th December the
city was tense. We waited anxiously for Rubayya at her home. In the meantime,
Zafar arrived. 'She will be here soon.' Zafar was the focus of everyone's
attention. It was obvious he had achieved a great miracle."
Singh in his weekly column in The Hindustan Times in its issue of February
17,1990 (Saturday) commented :" We are not being told the truth about what
is happening in the Valley of the Jhelum. I have come to that sorry conclusion
after comparing what has been reported in our papers and by our radio with
reports published in British papers and broadcast over the BBC. My complaint
is not so much against the Government which understandably would like to
play down the agitation but against our media men who have proved untrue
to their salt by simply putting out hand-outs given to them by the Governor's
grossest violation of the ethical code was committed by the correspondent
of the English language daily with the largest circulation in the country.
He was in Jammu on the fateful Sunday when the CRPF opened fire on a procession
of unarmed protesters, which included Hindus and Sikhs, defying the curfew
in Srinagar. His dateline claimed he was in Srinagar. The same applies
to correspondents of our two major wire services, PTI and UNI. They toed
the Government line instead of making investigations on their own. They
should realise that by holding back or distorting the truth, they destroy
the confidence the common man reposes in them".
Singh, who claims to play the role of a conscience-keeper, did not name
the journalist who violated the journalistic ethics. Perhaps he himself
did not follow the ethics which he espoused. S. S. Banyal, Special Correspondent
of The Hindustan Times, who had been posted at Srinagar to cover the State
in the past, was there on a special assignment and covered the events on
that fateful day (January 21). Jagmohan had taken over as the Governor
of the State the same day and was at Jammu where he was sworn in. The Indian
Express correspondent, George Joseph, was very much there. Khushwant Singh
did not bother to counter-check the facts with any correspondent or their
organisations before jumping to the 'sorry' conclusion and damning the
correspondents of the Press in Delhi. However, his comment perhaps gave
enough hints to terrorists and secessionists to hound out the 'hostile'
journalists from Srinagar and a fear psychosis was created by a majority
of local Muslim journalists, in league with secessionists.
atmosphere had been so vitiated that few months later in May Saeed Naqvi
reported in The Sunday Observer: "I did not expect the people to be so
angry. Otherwise like most sensible reporters of major national dailies,
I too, would have refrained from visiting the Idgah to attend the funeral
of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq . . .
I was surrounded by a mob of 100 or 200. I cannot say with certainty. They
spoke in and out of turn, each being the other's proxy. l could not understand
all that they said. But they were bitter, angry and in great pain.
young man pulled at my collar from behind. 'Indian dog go home, ' he shouted.
This chorus was soon picked up . . . 'I heard you on BBC,' said a young
man, lunging towards me viciously, his fist probing for my chin above the
heads of others encircling me. 'You said any one of the feuding groups
could have killed Maulvi Farooq.' (He was referring to a BBC Urdu service
programme I had participated in.) He pulled my collar! Again that chant,
Indian dogs go home."
a dispatch for The Telegraph (Calcutta) Yusuf Jameel in its issue of May
22, 1990 writing on the assassination of Mirwaiz Farooq stated: " 'All
the Kashmiri organisations struggling for independence must unite and fight
till the last man,' the Mirwaiz is claimed to have said before he breathed
his last. The Maulvi is believed to have got his statement, on who killed
him and how, recorded before he died." Perhaps it was the wishful thinking
of Jameel as a free English translation of the statement of Ghulam Qadir Sofi, the watchman, employed at the house of Maulvi
Farooq, reads: "I was
watering the roses with a pipe in the house since the gardener had not
came. While Mohammad Maqbool was going out, three persons opened the gate.
Mohammad Maqbool enquired from the their names, purpose of visit. In reply,
they stated that they had come the day before and Maulvi Sahib had given
an appointment for the said date; they wanted to meet him. With this motive
they entered. Maqbool asked me to accompany them but I stated that since
I was busy he himself should accompany them. Nevertheless, I went in. They
were disclosing their identities to the Secretary after which the Secretary
gave me a slip which I took inside. I was asked to wait. After 5 to 10
minutes, I went outside. As I came out I heard a 'bang' sound which was
followed by repeated shots. I caught hold of the person having the revolver,
which was of black colour. He tried to fire at me but I swayed towards
my right side. Two persons following him pushed me on one side and ran
away. I chased them up to the university gate where I fell down because
of giddiness. I was shouting, 'Oh God, Maulvi Sahib is dead.' "
victim had fallen unconscious and was rushed in a critical condition to
the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences at Sora. The Maulvi who
had sustained bullet injuries in the head, shoulders and the abdomen was
opened upon but succumbed to the injuries between 12.20-12.25 p.m.
arrest of the assassins of the Maulvi proved that Saeed Naqvi was correct
in assessing that one of the feuding militant groups may be behind the
gruesome murder of the Maulvi.
on such a state of affairs of the Press in the Valley Jagmohan in his book,
My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir commented: "An unfortunate tendency has
also developed amongst some of the correspondents to rely upon hear-say
or interested interviews even in respect of cases where documents and written
records to prove the contrary exist. Journalism is supposed to be a 'first
draft of history'. With the type of reporting that is taking place in a
section of our Press, I do not know whether it should be called instead
the first attempt to waylay the infant child of history ! Most of the commentaries
written by political analysts were based upon incorrect facts, careless
reporting, interviews of interested parties, and even totally concocted
bane of reportage in Kashmir is that most of local journalists, Srinagar-based
newsmen and visiting ones seldom move out of Srinagar to visit a spot to
get first hand information before filing their stories. Their stories are
often based on what is fed to them by the State Government or what their
sources (local journalists) readily offer them on a platter. Even in October
1989, when the entire family of a police officer was gunned down at his
native village by terrorists following his apprehending a notorious terrorist
at Kupwara a few days ago, no journalist ventured out of Srinagar though
the spot was barely 25 Km away from Srinagar. The request of a few journalists
from Delhi papers to accompany them was spurned by their local colleagues.
barring a correspondent of one Delhi newspaper, none went to the two constituencies
for pre-poll coverage in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. (The National Conference
candidate had already been elected unanimously from the Srinagar constituency).
On the polling day when a team of three newsmen - two from Delhi papers
and Mukhtar Ahmed of Daily Excelsior - visited some polling stations and
reported that at some places votes were cast and the polling staff had
turned up at each and every polling station, they were mocked at by the
local journalists and even their visit was questioned. Nowhere, the visiting
team saw that television sets were kept at the polling stations to be offered
to voters who would venture to cast their votes in defiance of the directive
of terrorists to boycott the elections. But, next day, almost every newspaper
in the country carried a picture of a TV set outside a polling booth. The
picture was, needless to say, stage-managed.
lot of noise was made in the national and international Press in March,
April and May 1991 over the alleged mass rape of women at Kunan Poshpora
in Kupwara district of the Valley. The incident reportedly took place in
the night of February 23. The Press Council of India, an autonomous body,
sent a team to investigate some cases of excesses by the Army and other
brutalities. It was headed by B.G. Verghese. The committee mentioned its
findings in a lengthy report: " The Kunan rape story on close examination
turns out to be a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their
sympathisers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad as part of a sustained and
cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare and as an entry point
for re-inscribing Kashmir on the international agenda as a human rights
issue. The loose ends and contradictions in the story exposes a tissue
of lies by many persons and at many levels.
women of Kunan Poshpora have been tutored or coerced into making statements
derogating their own honour and dignity. This cruel exploitation of simple
women through demeaning self-abuse is itself a deplorable human rights
up cudgels on behalf of human rights groups, Rita Manchanda accused the
Verghese Committee of an overt bias towards the Army version. She wrote
in The Economic & Political Weekly in its issue of August 17, 1991,
"The Army has effected a virtual coup in the latest Press Council report
'Crisis and Credibility' on Kashmir. They have got the country's ace liberal
- B.G. Verghese - to give a clean chit to the Army and, in passing, to
the para-military forces in the Valley. Editorials have hailed it for exposing
as a 'massive hoax' reports of Army excesses and atrocities in the Valley
. . .
rights groups are supposedly in the dock. And the adjudicator in this curious
trial of human rights groups vs the Army is B.G. Verghese. On the invitation
(request) of the Army, a three-member committee was appointed by the Press
Council to look into reports of Army excesses. One member, the elderly
journalist, Jamna Das Akhtar, was unable to travel to the Valley and is
not a signatory to the report. K. Vikram Rao is cited as co-author of the
report but he is better known for his trade union proclivities rather than
his journalistic activities. It is evident that the report rests on the
credentials of Verghese.
human rights groups would have described him as a sympathiser if not an
activist. And Verghese now admonishes these groups for being duped by 'the
say-so of alleged victims and propagandists" masterminded by Pakistan.
But as a far from demoralised V. M. Tarkunde retorted, "Is the report not
also based on the say-so of the Army? Is it not equally one sided." Does
this mean that the doyen of the professional human rights activists, Tarkunde
admitted that he was also one sided while investigating the alleged excesses
of the security forces?
before the Verghese panel submitted its report, O. N. Dhar wrote in a lengthy
article in the October 13, 1990 issue of The Hindu:
and foreign mediamen from far and near have paid several visits to the
strife-torn Valley to get the 'inside dope' on the 'guerrilla war' and
use the Srinagar dateline. No aspect of the fierce campaign against India
escapes their prying eyes, with the more resourceful ones among the foreign
journalists even having managed to disappear from views for days together,
duping local authorities, so as to be with militant contactmen to meet
'guerrilla commanders' and get their views and arrange photo and film coverage.
to be left behind, quite a few Indian mediamen have shown a remarkable
zest to match such enterprise, vying with one another to tap all possible
contacts to get close to the leading operators of the mayhem. The results
have been fairly rewarding for them with a host of stories, interviews,
magazine articles and pictorial features appearing in several leading newspapers
and periodicals focusing on the 'liberationists' and their version of the
Kashmir watchers have been struck by the almost identical vein of thought
running all through these writings and pictorial presentations: atrocities
and excesses of the security forces leading to the alienation of a hapless
population caught between the fear of militants and the hatred for the
'occupation forces'. Harrowing tales of woe related by 'innocent' victims
of the cross-fire have dominated most accounts with several 'humanist'
and civil rights outfits complementing the narrations with their 'own findings'.
If one were to go by these 'first-hand accounts' of our intrepid mediapersons
and the 'findings' of the omniscient civil rights enthusiasts the only
problem this nation is up against in Kashmir is that of excessive force
being used by the security personnel against an innocent peace-loving people!
a single media account or pictorial display, however, has shed light on
how these 'tell-tale' features, which have marked several presentations
on Kashmir, came to be produced. Nor has there been a word about the thoroughly
efficient organisational network which takes charge of visiting writers,
self-appointed investigators and photographers once they are cleared by
delegation of Kashmiri migrants in Delhi protested to a well-known jurist
- the leading light of a civil rights outfit. The members were astonished
when the distinguished gentleman whose name had appeared prominently in
the list of signatories to a statement issued by his outfit against 'police
and security forces barbarities in Kashmir' told them that whatever 'facts'
were related in the statement 'had been made available' to his team by
leading members of the Kashmir Bar Association. When he was told that most
of these 'facts' were either wrong or highly coloured and that a leading
figure of this Association was also the Chairman of the Coordination Committee
of various militant outfits called the 'Tehrik Hurriat Mutahida Mahaz'
(United Front of the Militant Movement), the civil rights leader showed
surprise and explained that they had no means of, and time, to check on
groups of Kashmiri readers once confronted the highbrow editorial operators
of a leading national daily that specialised in highlighting the 'plight'
of the Valley's 'innocent'. The readers wanted to know why in the newspaper's
high blown report there was no word about the brutal and systematic killing
of Kashmiri Hindu men. women and children, their forced migration or about
the mysterious fires which engulfed a number of Hindu mohallas in Srinagar
in May, June and August (1990). There was no answer.
hapless thousands, it would seem, are not at all Kashmiris in the eyes
of Sukhmani Singhs, Harjinder Singh Bawejas or Qurrat-ul-ain Haiders! A
house-boatman's tale of woe of 'We can't eat houseboats' makes a good full
page story but Mrs. Chuni Raina's harrowing account of what she faced,
while looking for her murdered husband does not deserve even a passing
reference. The forced migration of as many as 28,000 Hindu families, born
and brought up in the soil of their ancestors who gave it their very best
in all fields of life, is not worth even a paragraph of their tear-filled,
sympathy-evoking prose or photographs but the tale of ' Rs.3,000 worth
of fur jackets having been eaten by rats' as told by a dealer is fit enough
to deserve box display!
. . When Indian media representatives descended on Srinagar last year (1989)
to cover the militant mayhem they found themselves ostracised, while their
comrades of the foreign Press had the field set for 'inside' coverage.
Accredited national mediamen were taught their first lesson and as their
follow-up visits came they had learnt the lesson of making sure of proper
contacts. Handpicked public relations managers of militant outfits (masquerading
on the scene as local journalists) took notice of them by and by Select
correspondents and Press photographers were conducted to pre-arranged militant
'parades' on the Pakistan's Independence Day last year (1989) in Srinagar
and ' live interviews ' with masked gun-toting 'revolutionaries' were arranged.
film and photo features on the 'Kashmir revolution' thus became available
aplenty to a hungry media. An eagerly waiting nation was given a new approach;
those so-called terrorists were no terrorists but the angry victims of
an era of corruption, of suppression of democratic rights, of electoral
riggings and of unemployment and economic deprivation.
understand and present the problem in its various complexions and in all
its complexities instant formulations can prove dangerous. Nor will a presentation
of the problem in its current manifestation on the basis of slanted versions
and through stage-managed photo and film coverage and dramatic interviews
with 'guerrilla' commanders and their outfits ever be authentic. To understand
and present the truth - the whole truth - the media would have to probe
deep and hard, eschewing a growing tendency to re-write the history of
the bleeding vale in a hurry".
most of the journalists, commentators as well as human rights activists
have developed stubborn attitudes refusing to correct themselves. There
are only a handful of instances when newsmen have corrected themselves
in print. In a rare example, The Hindustan Times carried a report in the
last week of September 1989 at the time of the arrest of Shabir Shah -
leader of the People's League - that Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah,
had had a meeting with the arrested militant. Next day, the newspaper without
waiting for the official contradiction corrected its mistake.
irresponsible reports were not restricted to local newspapers alone. The
local correspondent of The Times of India filed a report which appeared
in the October 2, 1990 issue of the paper: "A BSF jawan allegedly killed
a large number of people and set fire to the main market in Handwara town,
about 65 km from here (Srinagar) today.
the exact number of people killed could not be ascertained, official sources
said the sub-divisional police officer had asked the district police lines
at Kupwara to send all vehicles at its disposal to Handwara to remove the
to the report, the BSF jawan went berserk after an encounter with militants.
When the encounter took place, most of the people are feared to have been
burnt to death after the market was set on fire.
said that the BSF jawan fired at the local police station. A head constable,
Ali Mohammad, was killed on the spot while another policeman was critically
injured. The exact number of shops and houses gutted could not be ascertained.
According to the sources, the security forces allegedly stopped a fire
tender from operating in the area for quite a long time."
the national wire agencies reporting the incident stated, "Militants fired
on the security forces in the town and intermittently at the main market
there. As a result of this firing, the head constable - Ali Mohammad -
of the local police, died on the spot and one security personnel was also
killed. Two militants were also killed."
local newspapers besides encouraging terrorists also donned the role of
a preacher. In its issue of June 11,1992 the Srinagar Times carried a statement
purported to be issued by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen:
there is nothing wrong in making sincere political and diplomatic efforts
to solve Kashmir problem, but it is unfortunate that a few militant and
political personalities have started giving preference to politics over
'Jehad'. It is the result of such behind-the-scene efforts that a lull
has descended on militant activities. Can a Muslim abandon 'Jehad' once
having joined it? Leaving the weapons, having once taken, reduces a Muslim
to the status of apostate."
some saner elements write with responsibility. In an editorial, the AI
Safa, another Urdu newspaper from Srinagar in its issue of June 9, 1992
commented: "Recently, in a remote area of Baramulla district, a heart-rending
incident, which was first of its kind, took place. A person hurled a grenade
on a crowd of people, ending three lives and leaving life-long scars on
the bodies of 30 innocent lives. Although the incident does not have much
importance because deaths and disablements of people have become a routine
(in Kashmir). But, so far, the nature of such incidents used to be quite
different. As a sequel to indiscriminate firing of the security forces,
torture in the torture cells and attacks, such incident (of deaths) would
be the result of the retaliatory actions (on the part of the militants).
people would be injured or die when bombs were hurled in crowded bazars,
and sometimes people would die on the charge of being informers. But all
this was tolerated as a part of the situation (in Kashmir), which has been
going on for the last three years. However, the incident of Kachchu Muqam
(in which one militant group attacked another killing one prominent militant)
is an entirely different incident, which has put a nate of interrogation
before the militant movement.
every sociely there are good as well as bad people. There are bad elements
too, and virus of sin as well. But everybody does not have the capability
to decide what is right and what is wrong. Similarly, everybody does not
have the right to declare other person a sinner and award punishment to
him. Every type of wrong and sin entails punishment according to the regulations
of every religion and every country.
very first defect of the militant movement (in Kashmir) has been that everybody
arrogated unto himself the right to declare what is right and what is wrong,
and award the punishment accordingly. Thus, an illiterate person who does
not have the vision of greatness of life, does not have the historical
sense and is not aware of the basic message of religion, issues statements
like a Mufti Azam or a judge. Thus, this position creates a notion in him
that he is a Messiah or a Prophet of his times. Whatever he says is the
truth, and whatever he does is the right thing. This illusion about one's
ownself will be highly dangerous for that society where such a person lives.
More so, when he has destructive material in his hands. In the (Kashmir)
Valley, there are more than 150 chief commanders, deputy chief commanders,
military advisors, chief of the intelligence units, district commanders
and section commanders belonging to different militant organizations wielding
power and clout.
can do whatever they want. There are only a few amongst them who have the
sense to observe bounds, and who are aware of their objectives. Rest of
them have indeed the enthusiasm, but they do not know what are the limitations
of their power. They consider themselves authorities on religion, morality,
politics rather on anything under the sun. Thus, they poke their nose in
everything and anything and consider it as their birthright . . .
has been an increase in the incidents which have resulted in the killings
of common men. This year, the apprehensions and misunderstanding about
the militant movement have increased. The disenchantment of the people
has increased . . . Basically, the urgent need of the hour is to define
the role of the gun and discuss the limits of its use. There should be
an open-hearted discussion on this subject. The question raised by the
Kachchu Muqam needs to be resolved immediately, otherwise the situation
has reached a sorry pass." (Translated from Urdu by The Kashmir Opinion)
as early as May 3,1990, Askari H. Zaidi, the then correspondent of The
Times of India at Srinagar, in a dispatch had stated: "While it is generally
accepted that a section of the local Press had become the mouthpiece of
militants, either under threat or otherwise, and was fanning secessionism,
the administration's indiscriminate onslaught on the local Press might
prove counter-productive in the long term".
situation has been objectively summed up by Modhumita Majumdar in an article
in The Pioneer in October 1992. She says, "What is reprehensible is the
attempt to pass off a one-sided picture as truth and the whole truth. This,
certainly, is not investigative journalism." A laudable effort was made
by the Press Council of India - an autonomous body - to constitute a committee
to investigate into some of the alleged instances of atrocities by the
Army while curbing terrorists.