Kashmir, Media and the Politics of Signification

Kashmir, Media and the Politics of Signification
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Politics is never without consequences and so is the media. Together, in context of the general practices in contemporary socio-cultural order, these two agencies have so deep and far-reaching consequences that the former actually evolves and nourishes on the consciously predisposed ideological conspiracies of the latter. In recent times, as the phenomenal sentiment of nationalism has grown strongly deeper with the so-called modern democracies, nothing has been so audaciously servile to politics to sell and popularize its ‘ideology’ as the media. If we do not lose the consciousness of history (like we have been conditioned to forget the history of political ordeal and affliction) at the peak of the 2014 poll campaign in India , a number of newspapers and TV channels repeatedly played the slogan Abki baar Modi sarkaar which, subsequently became one of the most popular catchphrases ever in the history of Indian elections.
It was so popular that even women from rural Kashmir, totally oblivious of the semantics of the phrase or even the person mentioned in the phrase, sung it like madrigals are sung at matrimonial ceremonies. It did not only help to induce a partial collective sentiment among people but dramatically turned the political atmosphere in favour of the BJP. This political, media incubated contrivance panoptically homogenizes the ‘deceived masses’ in a circle of manipulation where it not only limits the horizon of their political imagination but also ‘depoliticizes’ their identity. It reminds you of the conflicting political broadcast of Conservative Party transmitted in 1990 which ended with the word ‘socialism’ being transposed into red prison bars. What was intended was an attempt to mitigate the political ideology (socialism) of Labour Party to unfreedom and economic and political imprisonment.
Historically, Kashmir has been such a condemned place where these politically homogenizing forces (contrivances), obsequiously nourished by an equally conniving media, have worked to marshal and silence the collective consciousness of the history of truth, the bulk of crime victimization and rationality into subjective ordered realms of a perennial submission. Modern age is undoubtedly proving itself as the age of ‘image and information’. And, if any information functions as the most decisively powerful, it must be political information. This is what determines the confines and contours of our collective thought and action. Like a factory, media is used to distribute this ‘information’ (ideology in other words) as forms and images. Manipulating this new ‘telespace’ or an increasingly Orwellian screen culture, politics slowly but deeply fosters a new paradigm where, as in the words of the Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall ‘collective social understandings are created.’
Kashmir in the backdrop, from last five decades or so we has witnessed a systematic power play at work empowering the media industry to emphatically ‘foreground’ two decisive notions in the political ideology: one is the idea of the role and mission of Indian Army and second the idea of nationalism. The continuous deification of the idea of ‘army’ in the redundant boisterous media spectacles has not only exculpated the otherwise unpitying and heartless ‘army’ in Indian collective sensibility but also permanently adulterated the definition and discourse of ‘army’. Because the media does not reflect, as a political information, on the frequent reports of suicide of soldiers who are disallowed to visit home or their families in crisis, their deep psychological alienation and dissociation and a regular suppression of their elemental wants and emotions, the army has become, for their own families as well, a sacred metaphorical machine of aggression, bravely serving a ‘sacred’ political mission to bring about a ‘sacred’ revolution of nationalism.
This engineering and transmission of information not only misleads the collective understanding of the actual living conditions of the army or mitigates the tragic intensity of the routine deadly spectacles on the streets of Kashmir but also conceals the massive subordination of the masses.
The contemporary culture of power politics has slowly usurped and expropriated all unattended terrains of human unconscious and it can now be, if at all it doesn’t foment an uncalled rupture in our general understating of unconscious in psychoanalysis, termed as political unconscious. Previously, the grand archetypes of religion and ritual or an embedded praxis of a pattern of customs might have been the domineering propellers of human unconscious but, after renaissance, a sweeping resurgence of a powerful political culture has crushed to subordination all other strongholds of human unconscious including the libidinal dynamism. When all was not already well with Kashmir, the establishment, with the delirious media going all bonkers in support, began allegedly tampering with Article 35A. The circulation of this powerful political ‘information’ effected a wave of consternation and hopelessness across the public domain, once again pushing people to forget their earlier ordeals and suffering, and to obediently conduct themselves to fresh political codifications which include the suspension of rationality, the normalizing of civilian killings, the routine conduct of devastative operations to petrify people and locate the doomed house in a distant corner of some poor village to bullet-barrage one or two sitting ducks, the closure of places, markets and institutions, and finally the deification of all this as a sacred national mission. Let’s not talk about internet breakdown here. It is their major weapon and they can do anything with it.
Not before that worsening fear, stuck heavily on our collective psyche, of losing our identity as validated by Article 35A had gone, came another vicious surge of political authority – the conduct of Municipal and Panchayat elections. In spite of the fact that the percentage of votes in the recently concluded municipal polls was alarmingly insignificant from the valley, the media clamour doesn’t seem to stop weaving a different narrative with phrases like ‘clean sweep’ and ‘massive victory’. Such repeated dictates have just rendered our minds (existence) as mere processors of political information. The play of this information has become so indispensable to our existence that now it has even become our kitchen discourse. It works so hard on the wires of our brains that we even build our family relations, our differences and even our caprices on its strong foundations. It feeds and fills, with a seductive concealment of its intent, our collective psychic residue with purely political images, symbols and fears. Therefore, ours is essentially a generation of politically inflicted trauma. As of now, no matter the diversity of our marginal, repressed voices, I see the leviathan of State standing tall, rigid and cold in its exorbitant singularity.

—The author is an Assistant Professor at the Government College of Engineering and Technology, Safapora, Ganderbal. He can be reached at: gluoomkk@gmail.com