Media Driven Democracy

In school while writing an essay on Science I was programmed never to forget the phrase “necessary evil” and from my school days the list of these necessary evils has only been growing. Is it that the world is becoming more evil or more necessary?

Most of the people will agree that media is one of the most necessary evils these days and plays an important role in all of our lives. It is media only that informs us about happenings around us, it highlights issues of human importance, sensitizes us about our environment, it is responsible for policy changes of governments, and the list is just endless. Media has grown so powerful that it decides the rights and wrongs for us, it without us noticing influences our decisions so much that we end up making decisions which it wants us to make. So some people consider Media an angel and at the same time some consider it a monster!

It has become habit of Amarnath Yatra to be in news every year, so this year was no exception. It was in news before its commencement, with people wanting the duration of the yatra to be extended but the government was not giving into the demands due to extreme climatic conditions. The national media presented it as news, did not go in details to tell the public why the government was not allowing Yatra before fixed date and the public was let to assume the reasons, which most assumed as a Muslim majority state interfering in the religion of Hindus.

After the yatra commenced, due to difficult terrain and harsh climate, the Yatris death became daily news, now the news channels started to go beyond than just reporting the news and associate government incompetence with deaths of the Yatris. On which Supreme Court was forced to take Sou Motto. Supreme Court questioned government regarding the environmental issue and also about unregistered Yatris, but not single news channels bothers to highlight the issue of unregistered Yatris, who create the mess in the first place and the ecological disaster that is in the making due to this Yatra.
If the government of J&K decides not to allow the unregistered Yatris to complete the Yatra or to enforce strict environmental laws in the area, which will ensure the safety of Yatra besides helping in averting the ecological disaster, the same national media will be after its head declaring it as the interference in the religious matters of Majority community. So the government is stuck between the devil and the deep-sea.

It is praiseworthy that the supreme court of India took sou motto notice of the matter and it goes on to show the proactive role that judiciary can play. But the question that is popping in every Kashmiris mind is that in 2010 almost 150 kids were killed (murdered) why did the supreme court of India not take sou motto note then? At that time the national media was busy in justifying the deaths, even if we accept that they were miscreants but did their lives value nothing?
A heinous crime was committed in Guwahati and it was telecasted on national news channels, the whole nation was aghast and wanted action to be taken against culprits. The issue turned into a quagmire for the state government which is yet to wriggle itself out if it. Next day an army personal was arrested by police for eve teasing. But the silence of national media about similar or even more horrific crimes in Kashmir is deafening. Recently in the capital city of Kashmir, Srinagar, a BSF personal is caught by locals harassing school girls, is beaten to pulp and then is handed over to local police after that no one knows what happened.

Kalmadi is yet to overcome the setback of commonwealth games, he attending Olympics in London is doubtful. The commonwealth games scandal was so hotly pursued by the media that the government was forced to take action. In Kashmir cricket scandal surfaced and vanished without causing any ripples or making any heads to roll. The person allegedly involved was even rewarded by making him the manager of Indian national team!
No doubt the current scenario raises a lot of questions about the Indian democracy but the attitude of Kashmir media itself leaves a lot to be wished.

Media in Kashmir is not acting as a guardian of democracy, natural rights or human values but is aiding different players to divert public attention from certain issues from time to time.
Is media only meant to report about skirmishes in separatist camp or the pot-shots that mainstream politicians & separatists take at each other?
Every day the newspapers are full of reports about violence, political statements, press releases of different parties etc., but what happened to reporting about common man’s issues. How about the reporting the increasing menaces of eve teasing and sensitizing public about it, who seem to have accepted it as a norm. The sccoties have given girls a bit freedom to travel and evade sex-grabs in public transport. We ignored eve teasing for long and we are already seeing the adverse effects in the form of increasing number of rape cases. How about reporting regarding the rampant practice of child labour or is it acceptable in this part of the world. Why don’t we highlight the Architectural disaster that the Srinagar city is turning into with government promoting it? What is stopping us from highlighting the wrong hiring policies of different government and non-government agencies?

Media acts as a mirror to the society, if media doesn’t reflect the ugly face of the society it isn’t taken aback and introspection doesn’t begin!

Media doesn’t absolve of its responsibilities by just reporting about these issues once, they will have to pursue them and ensure that some action is taken in this regard.

Recently University of Kashmir didn’t allow one blind student to use braille while appearing in an entrance examination. Apart from few newspapers no one bothered to report this incident. Does the violation of blind student’s rights ring no bell here? If it had happened anywhere else it would had been on front page of every paper and for sure some heads would have rolled.
We can’t blame media for everything, in this environment of uncertainty the media personal have to walk on a very stiff rope. They can’t afford to disappoint any party or otherwise they can end up at the other end of a gun held by an unidentified person. Different intelligence agencies also make sure that they maintain their clout of influence through money and intimidation. These things have resulted in blunting the blade of the media in Kashmir.
The constitutionalists refer to media as one of the pillars of democracy but I would say that media has grown into being the engine that drives democracy. If Kashmir wants to see and enjoy the benefits of democracy, the foremost requirement is that of free and independent media. Media should be managed by professionals and driven by intellectuals, by values rather than interests, only then can we expect answers to the unanswered questions. Till then keep turning left at every diversion!

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor

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University of Kashmir – Dinosaur in Making

Standing in the line of eternity outside a window and inside the window a sole finger, aided by two eyes, is searching for the letters on keyboard; the finger type “N” and the eyes start searching for the letter “A”………… found and typed. This is how the word “NAME” is typed in almost five minutes by the “Angutha Shaps” (illiterate people who use thumb impression instead of signature) of our age, and computers are supposed to make you work speedy. These A.Ss are managing the largest and highest educational institute in Kashmir.

Couple of weeks ago during the Friday sermon the imam sahib of university mosque said, “…This is the highest educational institute so we expect the students and staff to be of highest quality…” Imam Sahib was right in saying so but the reality is that the selection process of staff (teaching & mom-teaching) and students of the university leaves a lot to be wished.

It is commonly understood that only three types of people are employed in the university: (1) The who’s who; people who are well connected politically and socially (2) The promised child; kids or relatives of University officials (3) The lucky; these are the ordinary people who get lucky as no one from above two categories is interested in the post they have applied for. Sometimes they even have to pay hefty bribes to secure their selection.

This type of selection process has an extremely adverse effect on the functioning of the whole university. There is no quality or value addition in the form of new hires apart from the chance addition through the lucky group.

When the incompetent people are hired by the university, it is an achievement beyond them. They no more strive for anything; they sit in their chair, abuse and order people as if it is their birth right. The teaching staffs after being appointed in the university have no higher aims to aim for, this is where the callous attitude, which is eating the university from within, creeps in. This attitude is then transferred to students, it being contagious, through whom the whole society is infected.

University of Kashmir reeks of corruption, complacency, incompetence and inefficiency in every aspect of its operation.

University of Kashmir being the prime university of the valley and caters to almost 90% of students. Keeping this fact in mind the management is expected to always be at their innovative best, but alas! The management seems to have not even heard of word innovation. Kashmir University has a website but how helpful or effective is it in attaining its objective? Various people will have various opinions about this website let me tell you mine, it is the worst website I have seen of nay educational institute. If you have to search for something on this website it is near to impossible, only the experts (internet café people inside the university campus) know what to find where.

There is also a separate website for filling forms online, but here also university only took a half step forward, one can fill the form online but can’t submit it online. One necessarily has to submit it physically. From here one’s ordeal of standing in the line starts; first you have to stand in line outside the bank counter to pay fees, then to submit the form and then again to know the status of your form.

Why can’t we just do away with this line system by having a complete online system; which would provide solutions from paying fee online, submitting form online, getting updates online and various other services?

The tragedy with our University is that anything that involves money, on it the first right is of the promised child or the who’s who. The Kashmir University website met the same fate as did various other initiatives or programs. So under such environment how can we expect the website to be state of art or innovative, the website designing or any other initiative is just a pretext to withdraw money.

University of Kashmir’s Center for Career Planning and Counseling (CCPC) started a program for coaching Kashmiri students for competitive exams, it started with much fanfare but as the years passed the authorities lost interest in it. The initiative’s downward slide can be summarized in the table below.

S.No Programme Examination Year No of Participants
1 6th coaching  program KAS prelims 2008 52
2 7th coaching  program KAS prelims 2009 135
3 8th coaching  program KAS Mains 2009 78
4 9th coaching  program KAS prelims 2010 40
5 11th coaching  program KAS prelims 2012 33

While commenting about the current state of the coaching program Mohammad Tarique Khan, who happens to be the deputy director of Centre for Coaching & Career Planning (Jammia Millia) besides being a renowned historian and author, said, “this program has been a causality of chalta hai attitude”

Regularly we hear the University Authorities making tall claims but we all know how shallow these claims are. To give you a snap shot of what people / students think about university have a look at these tweets:

“@altaf_jh: one of the most erudite, inefficient, ridiculous, autocratic administrations I have ever seen”

“@IbneBattuta: Kashmir University is the hub of nepotism and family progression”

Instead of introspection the university is busy of boasting of its NAAC A+ rating, which has been acquired by bribing the NAAC team with expensive gifts (Saffron, Shawls etc.). In reality the university doesn’t have anything apart from the beautiful campus and Iqbal library to boast of.  It is high time that the government takes a serious note of the mess that the university has turned into. It is not only affecting the university only but has a very adverse effect on the society at large.

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor

Art of Hypocricy

Equality, Liberty and Fraternity were the three slogans raised as far back 18th century during French revolution. These slogans were considered to be  holy rights of each citizen of every nation. This was considered an epoch of human civilization, but eve after three centuries these slogans are yet to implemented on ground.
In the country where these slogans were first raised, a woman doesn’t have the freedom to choose what she finds appropriate to wear. She has to wear what the State deems right for her or else face imprisonment and fines. Then there is the nation which boasts of as the liberator of the world and upholder of democracy, where police decides on the severity of the threat that you may pose to the State on the basis of your colour and your religious beliefs. It classifies the whole world into two groups, us and them!
India as a nation was formed on the terms of equality and freedom, but the people who were handed the reins to run the nation never believed in these values. In 1950 when the constitution of India was implemented both Muslims and Christians were included in the list of schedule casts, which guaranteed them certain privileges and certain social benefits. This was an important step in governments attempt to remove the disparity with regards to their educational and financial development. After seven months of the implementation of the constitution a separate circular / memo was issued by virtue of which Muslims and Christians were declared no to be schedule casts. There is some sort of consensus among historians that this was the handiwork of bureaucrats, bureaucracy at that time was controlled and run by upper caste Hindus.
Since inception and even before people are being discriminated against in India on the basis of cast and religion. The tribal people in India are denied every right; they are treated as les than humans; their lands are being snatched away from them; their gods (forests & hills) are being rampaged and bulldozed; their woman are forced to dance for entertaining the tourists. When these less than humans rise up in arms they cease to be even humans and are called savages, hard core criminals and terrorists.
A recent study has shown that the police force which is supposed to protect all the people irrespective of their colour, religious belief or region of domicile, is biased in it approach towards  people on the basis of their religious belief. The regular fake encounters and the alleged active participation, through non action against majority community, in the Gujarat pogrom has shaken the belief of minority in the Indian democracy.
There is a saying that if you witness something wrong happening and do not raise your voice against it, you are more to be blamed than the culprit himself / herself because it is your silence that encouraged the culprit to commit the crime. This saying is appropriate for our government. The Kashmiris are being harassed everywhere, but the government is doing nothing concrete apart from issuing a customary statement. The central government had assured that no Kashmiri student will be harassed in any part of the country; it has turned out to be hollow talk as the harassment of Kashmir students continues and the incidents only have increased in number. This raises questions against both the central and state government and about their sincerity. A Kashmiri doesn’t dare to report harassment or even visit a police station anywhere outside Kashmir, for the fear of being arrested in a fake case or being killed in a fake encounter and later being branded as a hard core terrorist.
What is more appalling is government not only supporting but actively propagating the discriminatory policies. Here is Kashmir the government has proposed separate settlements for Kashmiri Pundits. While commenting on the proposed plan @IbneBattuta tweeted, “Separate quota, separate education, separate jobs, separate social benefits and now separate settlements. Next what separate skies?” It is the height of hypocrisy that the people at helm condemn Hitler and at the same time propagate his policy of ghettos!

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor