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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