The Indian media’s coverage of the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s killing in Kashmir is like a dark cloud with a silver lining. It has thundered and drummed up support for the Great Indian State and the Cause of the Nation, dutifully propagating official propaganda such as ‘Pakistan is the Problem’, but also marketing its own brand to the maximum effect, for nothing sells like nationalism in these Modi days.
The news channels with the highest TRPs and the newspapers with the highest readership have used the explosion of rage against India to further buttress their claim as the best guardians, informers, and advisers of the Nation. Thus the brainstorming on their pages or primetime debates on how to manage the situation, the positions to adopt vis a vis Kashmir, such staple obfuscations of the will, the resolve of Kashmiris to free their land of India’s occupation. But the TV channels and the newspapers are only running a business; the consumers of their product are Indians and they cannot sell them what is unpalatable to them. The mass media will tailor its appeal to the masses. Only if public opinion changes, and it frequently does, will the big media follow suit.
But while that is a big if, there is even now a small, but growing, medium that is not limited to the Indian consumer, that is not aiming for the mass market, and that is allowing different shades of opinion, even the truth, to be spoken. This is the bustling internet, with all its social clubs and blogs and online news. Here is that aforementioned silver lining that has not simply taken a position, but instead, thrown it open for debate. It has sought discussion, engagement, understanding. That is why there is an army of trolls hounding it, but undaunted this pursuit of the truth of one’s own conscience is creating a new awareness, a new doubt on the official reality of Kashmir. In Europe and America, most people, especially youth, use the internet to read news and commentary. In India, too, is now a generation that is aware of the world, that converses with people of different nations, many of whom are Kashmiris. Hopefully this has made their minds less narrow and nationalist. In times when one feels bombarded by jingoism all around, when the big black cloud looms eerily, then this silver lining, this small mercy, is enough to pin hopes upon.