By Imran Khan
Social networking sites and media channels are buzzing with the slogan: “We are with her”. Yes, I am talking about Zaira Wasim, who by her achievement made her parents and many across Kashmir very proud. However, it remains particularly unknown that who in Kashmir is against her? Although many have expressed their anger about her meeting with chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, but that should be understood only against attempts to create a political advantage out of Zaira’s individual achievement.
Is Zaira the only Kashmiri to have worked in Indian cinema? Off-course not, then what made her an easy prey for politicians and Indian media? The answer can be found by analysing “Burhan aftermath” and the inability of Indian establishment to win the hearts of Kashmiri youth. And thus a non-issue was made out to be a big issue purposefully to portray some Kashmiris as intolerant, radical and ignorant and to link the same with 2016 uprising.
It has been a recent trend in Kashmir that politicians try to affiliate themselves with individual achievers to take political advantage out of them, particularly when they fail to deliver on their promises or when the government only earns the wrath of common masses, the simple coping escape seems to celebrate individual achievements as that of the achievements of the government.
The way Zaira was trolled may make one believe that Kashmiris seem to reject their young individual achievers. However, such trolling needs to be understood holistically in a proper perspective. It can be considered as catharsis of a few Kashmiri youth who faced very abnormal and difficult circumstances during the 2016 uprising. Most of the youth are basically dissatisfied with ‘mainstream’ politicians who tend to speak one language at the time of elections and other when they come to power. So the trolling is nothing but a well understood emotional reaction to an attempt by the ‘mainstream’ politicians to conveniently use individual achievements by some Kashmiris for their own political gains.
Many believe that unable to win the hearts of Kashmiris the meeting of the chief minister with Zaira can only be understood as a psychological tactic. We all know that Burhan was celebrated like a hero by a majority of Kashmiris, particularly youth. The controversy initiated by ‘mainstream’ politicians in case of Zaira and the hype given to it by Indian media seems to be targeted at countering the Burhan effect. The intentions get quite clear when such achievers are asked political and leading questions by the media.
The use of psychological operations in conflict situations is not a new concept. The methods are used with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in target population. Here the propagandists seek to destroy morale, influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of the adversary population by psychological means so that the opponent begins to doubt the validity of his beliefs and actions. And sponsored media never remains behind in such an endeavour.
Media manipulation is a series of related techniques in which partisans create an image or argument that favours their particular interests. Such tactics may include the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and often involve the suppression of information or points of view by crowding them out, by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or by simply diverting attention elsewhere. Same is being done when it comes to any issue related to Kashmir.
Many news channels even question the value systems, attitudes and cultural practices of our society. Culture does have an influence on the behaviour, attitudes and beliefs of people. But then who are others to judge our cultural beliefs and practices? If cinemas are not approved in our society, if vulgarity is resisted, if emphasis is given on following the teachings of religion, how that makes us intolerant and radical? These are politically motivated terms used purposefully to have a false analysis of the situation of Kashmir.
Further, lets accept that those who expressed their anger against Zaira are radical or ignorant but then how can the same be generalised to entire Kashmir. It must be understood that one of the fallacies of research is false generalisation on the basis of small and unrepresentative sample. The same is being done by Indian media and its so-called intellectual class all the time. Angry comments by a few on social media against Zaira are being generalised to entire Kashmiri population. When millions protesting in 2016 unrest were described as only 5%, why cannot be the troll considered as even less than that? The message is loud and clear: Kashmir needs a peaceful solution and no matter of psychological operations and tactical management can bring peace.
And regarding Zaira, Kashmiris are not so naive to be against any achievers among them Zaira has a free will and free choice. We do recognise that. And above all we do respect her right to have her space, away from angry youth, media and particularly politicians.
—The writer holds M.Phil in Psychology from University of Kashmir.