Street and Studio

As Desmond Tutu puts it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. Neutrality helps the oppressor not the victim.” The oppressor will tell you to shun victim-hood narrative, learn to “move on” and “forget” and not “glorify pain.”

The orange sun was sliding amidst rusty brown tin roofs of downtown like an orange hiding itself among brown hats. I was on the attic of my house, silent and unusual calm prevailed on a bright day amidst the curfewed city. With a sudden bang and whoosh, the siege of the day ended. So did the imposed and fleeting calm. Stone pelting started and the flash grenades in the sky indicated the arrival of twilight. Indian forces were going back to their barracks. And stone pelting was indication of their disgraceful exit after boring day. Million jabbing pins were put on eyes and throat when pepper and tear gas permeated the air. The air was peppered. Every-street lamp was off. The eyes of night were closed, its face peppered. I went downstairs. Into my room were TV was on. And the room itself was like the war torn Kashmir. There was another sort of blackout; blackout of information and truth. The screeching voices infuriated you. It was agonizing and unbearable.

It was the month of August. Amidst one month under curfew, India was to celebrate its independence day.
On July 08, 2016, the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani initiated a process of cataclysmic state violence with each protest bringing deaths and more deaths followed by more protests. It was a leaderless uprising. The people were again into the state of feeling where they know it’s enough, it is now or never. And government did what it is best known for: creating an information blackout, while on the other hand through its media spinning cobwebs of hateful propaganda against Kashmiris; celebrating our grief and packaging it like commodity.

On the streets, smudging graffiti’s expressed dissent. Those days when the siege was laid outside our houses, I did what I rarely do. I was reading both the TV and the streets, from TV to street and street to the TV. What else could you do when you are put under curfew by world largest democracy?

The streets were turned into a garrison. Kashmir was turned again into open air prison. As a prisoner writes on its walls, Kashmiris too inscribe their aspirations on walls of open air prison during dark nights. The graffiti started appearing in Kashmir – Burhan is back. It transcended from “RAGDO RAGDO BHARAT RAGDO to GO INDIA- GO BACK to BURHAN IS BACK”. The Graffiti became the voice of the gagged valley. But they too were altered. As a Journalist friend of mine reported it in a local daily Kashmir Monitor and online website the quint with a headline:
From ‘Go India’ to ‘Good Indian’: The Graffiti War in Kashmir.

The Indian jingoistic and voyeuristic media chose as usual to portray Kashmir uprising as:

-Pakistan backed.

-Terming the martyr Burhan Wani as terrorist and all his sympathizers as terrorist supporters (So Kashmir’s are terrorists). Forgetting that we live in a world where someone’s terrorist is someone’s martyr. India seems amnesiac to its history.

-Resorting to character assassination of Burhan Wani.

-Those out on streets are termed as “elements that disrupt peace”, and “attack” armed forces with stones. Stones are lethal but how many Indian forces have been killed due to stones?

-Producing and passing some masked men as stone pelters who were paid 500 R/s by Pro freedom leaders.

-Hundreds of thousands of rupees sent by Pakistan to Kashmir for orchestrating protests
“Increasing Wahabism” responsible for uprising

-Pro freedom leaders’ kith and kin are not part of protests and getting education in foreign countries.

-Justifying every killing as an act of self defense by armed forces.And much more

We all know this much: Indian corporate media is a propaganda machine orchestrating a hateful propaganda against Kashmiris, lying to its own people and world. It is a good Public relations machine of Indian state that twists the truth, misinforms, and lies to the people working under the ambit of ‘national security and national interests’. So no wonder, governments deceive and journalists willing spread the deceptions. They are Pseudo-Journalists, polemicists, “vilifyers”, propagandists, war –mongers, stenographers of power. And through their poppycock narratives, they made principled local journalists even more vulnerable.

There are exceptions. And we should laud them for they are operating in a climate where to be on the side of oppressed, unearthing reality as having a critical view may invite state wrath.The corporate media doesn’t question impunity of their forces enabled by draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Act, PSA? In fact, they create debates to reinforce them so does the “morale” of the Indian security apparatus in Kashmir does not go down- the killing morale. Human Rights violations like killings, enforced disappearances, custodial killings, interrogations, fake encounters and sprouting up of torture chambers are blacked out. What about pellet victims who lost vision? Shall we call this media as moral watchdog? A fourth pillar of world’s largest democracy?

To all those analyzers who have chosen to “represent” Kashmir – have you ever been in this war zone? Dear self-styled experts, How much do your bank accounts burgeon while trading off truth? Or are you fame junkies? Have you ever had to show your identity card to a stranger in your own land? Have ever faced a bullet that went through the heart that had dreams and love inside it; or the skull that carries archives of memories, shattered and blown apart by a tear-gas shell; or an eye, that beholds a world, blinded due to pellets?

The Pakistan Media did give admirable coverage about Kashmir, exposing Indian atrocities, human rights violations, and suppression of Kashmir’s at the hands of Indian forces. So did the international media. But is that all?
Our local intrepid journalists jeopardized their lives and reported fearlessly and countered the lies of Indian Media. One such was Kashmir Reader and it while trying to become agent of people instead of power had to face brunt.

Through this period, we all wanted to drag the Indian “journalists” by their neck, rub their eyes that wore official blinkers and tell them to speak our side of the story. To ask them to change their agendas towards oppressed and not justify state violence.

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