Illustration: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Illustration: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Text Size:

New Delhi: ‘We want freedom, India go back”, “Kashmir unrest: They shot me and I fell to the ground’”; “Slurs and Slingshots: Kashmiris allege abuse”; “Indian Clampdown Reverberates on Kashmir’s Quiet Streets”; “Injured, pregnant Kashmiris cut off from aid in Modi’s communications blackout”; “Hindus from Kashmir celebrate India move, Muslims feel ‘deceived’”.

These are some of the headlines on Kashmir carried by the international media in the four weeks since the Modi government revoked Article 370 and changed the status of Jammu & Kashmir.

On 30 August, BBC reported that several villagers in south Kashmir, the hotbed of local militancy, alleged torture by security forces during night raids.

“Once I took off my clothes, they beat me mercilessly with rods and sticks, for almost two hours. Whenever I fell unconscious, they gave me shocks to revive [me],” claimed a Kashmiri man.

The Indian Army categorically denied the allegations. Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said to the BBC, “There have been no injuries or casualties due to countermeasures undertaken by the Army.”

On the same day, The New York Times chose to publish an opinion piece by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, “The World Cannot Ignore Kashmir. We are all in danger.”

On 29 August, The Washington Post published a report alleging that 3,000 people had been detained in Kashmir and that at least five of them were under the age of 18.

Similarly, a Wall Street Journal report claimed the same day that hospitals were running low on vital drugs.

These reports found few echoes in the Indian media.

The government has denied most of these reports, though it did yield some ground on the controversial reportage of the 9 August Soura protest.

The home ministry responded to the aforementioned WSJ story.

The foreign media reports have been controversial in India, where the question of Article 370 has become a highly-charged issue with often-communal undertones, given the state’s Muslim majority.

Mostly critical, they have described the situation in Kashmir in ominous tones.

There has also been a public backlash against foreign media: Last Friday, a public protest was planned in Washington against The Washington Post’s coverage, while BJP MP Rakesh Sinha said BBC and Al Jazeera are biased in their reportage.

 

5 August & the week that followed

The Modi government moved to abrogate Article 370 on 5 August amid detentions of the state political leadership, curfew-like restrictions, including on communication outlets, and a suspension of cable TV.

A virtual information blockade has been in place for the last month, though communication restrictions have been eased for a few hours or in select areas.

In such a scenario, information from the Valley has been hard to come by — leaking out in trickles — and the media has been severely restricted in its ability to report the ground reality.

Domestic media

On the first day and the week that followed, most Indian media outlets erred on the side of caution. Most publications and TV news channels welcomed Modi’s move as correcting a “historic blunder”.

On 5 August, the front page of The Indian Express was headlined, “History, in one stroke”, while TV channel Times Now called the move “Historic and game-changing”.

There were some stray reports of protests — a report by PTI headlined “‘Localised incidents’ in Kashmir ahead of I-Day, restrictions will continue for a while: Officials” was republished by many publications.

Criticism was largely restricted to curbs on communication, civil liberties and the detention of political leaders.

The Editors Guild of India, in a statement, condemned the communication blockade and restrictions imposed on reporting in the valley.

Thereafter, Pakistan’s reactions to developments in Kashmir — and criticism of those — have dominated Indian media headlines and TV studio discussions while footage has largely depicted empty streets strewn with barbed wire, patrolled by security forces. The overall general impression is of a state limping awkwardly back to normalcy.

A day after Eid on 12 August, however, ThePrint’s Azaan Javaid described the return of a slogan that marked the start of the Kashmir insurgency three decades ago: “There is only one solution, Gun Solution, Gun Solution.”


Also read: Don’t shun foreign media, talk to them: Modi govt fix for ‘biased’ reports on Kashmir


Western Media

On 5 August, international headlines reflected on Modi’s mission Kashmir and none of it was complimentary.

The British Daily Mail reported, “India sends thousands of troops into Kashmir and revokes the region’s ‘special status’ provoking fury from nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan.”

The BBC said, “Article 370: India strips disputed Kashmir of special status”, while compatriot Financial Times wrote, “India scraps Kashmir’s special status amid lockdown”.

NYT chose to run “India revokes Kashmir’s special status, raising fears of unrest”, while Los Angeles Times stressed Kashmir’s loss of autonomy, “India revokes Kashmir’s limited autonomy, raising tension in a long-turbulent region”.

Al Jazeera mourned the move with the headline “Darkest day: Uproar as India strips Kashmir of special status”.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune, meanwhile, called it “Occupation redux”, while Dawn favoured a more sensational headline, “New Delhi sheds fig leaf, robs held Kashmir for special status”.

Most countries in India’s neighbourhood, barring Pakistan, have depended largely on news agencies like Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France Presse for news from Kashmir, as have news portals in West Asia, with Al Jazeera being the only exception.

Kashmir ‘the most dangerous place on earth’

In background and explainer pieces during that first week, American and British media portrayed Kashmir as a disputed site in a triangular conflict between India, Kashmiris and Pakistan.

Kashmir was variously referred to as “Indian-administered Kashmir” and “Indian-occupied Kashmir” — a “flashpoint” between “nuclear-armed rivals”. CNN and BBC’s descriptions frequently called J&K a “flashpoint”.

BBC’s explainer (5 August) called Kashmir “one of the most militarised zones in the world… a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than six decades”.

On a podcast, New Yorker referred to Kashmir as the “most dangerous place on earth”.

The BJP is described as a “right wing’’, “Hindu nationalist” party that has had ambitions to change J&K’s status.

On 8 August, The Washington Post noted that the revocation is the “fulfillment of a long-held demand of Hindu nationalists, who view India as a fundamentally Hindu nation rather than the secular republic envisioned by its founders”.

It also mentioned India’s “roaring approval” of Modi’s decision, “Modi, a Hindu nationalist by the time he was 10 years old, had upended life in India’s only Muslim-majority state, flexing those nationalist muscles for his millions of followers.”

The Economist, the same day, referred to Kashmir as a “bitterly disputed Muslim-majority region…” It added that “the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party had long argued that Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was an error”.

9 August

This was, perhaps, the first day the coverage of the foreign press became controversial.

Al Jazeera published a video on 9 August, the first Friday after the decision, that claimed Indian troops had opened fire and used tear gas on Kashmiri protesters in Soura, Srinagar.

Next day, BBC telecast a video report where police were seen dispersing a protest. Gunshots were heard in the background. It called this “the largest protests in the Valley since curfew” and claimed that “thousands” of people joined the protest.

The opening caption of the video reads, “The Indian government said this demonstration didn’t take place.”

An official statement by the home ministry said these reports were “fabricated and untrue”, prompting the BBC to issue its own statement saying it stood by its reportage — the fact-checking website AltNews said the video was authentic.

The ministry subsequently issued a statement that blamed the “widespread unrest” in Soura on “miscreants” mingling “with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque”.

Since foreign correspondents are not allowed in Kashmir without a permit, foreign reportage from the Valley is by Indians who work for international media houses.

In a report on 9 August, The Guardian described “the deserted” Lal Chowk a few days before Eid on 12 August and wrote of “the voices of Kashmiris… (which) have been almost completely silenced”. It then quoted local people on their daily travails.

On 15 August, a Wall Street Journal report contrasted PM Modi’s Independence Day speech promising “peace and prosperity” with the Indian paramilitary forces “blocking off streets” in Srinagar. They quoted local residents “seething” with anger.


Also read: BBC defends J&K coverage as Govt refutes international media claims of violence


Editorials condemn move as ‘shocking’, ‘dangerous and wrong’

NYT, Washington Post, LA Times, Bloomberg (US), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Global Times (China), Financial Times and The Guardian (UK) were among the newspapers who carried editorials on Kashmir.

All condemned India’s move.

On 5 August, NYT said in an editorial headlined “India Tempts Fate in Kashmir, ‘The Most Dangerous Place in the World’” that the move was “dangerous and wrong”. “Bloodshed is all but certain, and tension with Pakistan will soar,” it wrote.

Washington Post said on 16 August, “Mr Modi is playing a dangerous game. His sunny vows of transparency aside, the stripping of Kashmir’s autonomy was done in darkness and in the most coercive way possible.”

The Guardian stated on 6 August that the move was “incendiary” and “shocking and perilous”.

LA Times compared the situation in Kashmir to Hong Kong, where massive protests against Chinese control have continued for nearly two months and Palestine, where Israel has been accused of moving settlers to Arab territory.

Financial Times, meanwhile, said India’s relationship with Kashmir requires “great care”.

In an editorial posted 8 August, the South China Morning Post was deeply critical of the Modi government. “Modi’s strategy is dangerous, not just for Kashmir, but the nation. It will strain India’s social fabric, democracy and diversity,” it noted.

Bloomberg stated the same day, “The real problem in the state isn’t Pakistan or jobs. It’s a lack of agency for local residents.” The headline minced no words — “Article 370: India is making a mistake in Kashmir”.

Israeli media’s mellow response

The view from Israel is more sympathetic to Modi, perhaps because of good relations between the countries and the parallels drawn between India’s moves in Kashmir and Israel’s in Palestine

The Jerusalem Post said on 5 August: “…Unsurprisingly, this seemingly intractable conflict seems a lot like the kinds of conflicts Israel has had with its neighbours, which were also partly the result of a failed partition plan that came out of British colonial rule.”

However, Haaretz published critical opinion columns, one of them, written by a Pakistan-based journalist, headlined, “’Kashmir Is Palestine’: Why Both India and Pakistan Want to Push This Ominous Comparison”.

Photographs

Photographs from Reuters, AFP and AP were telling, often more than the reports. NYT’s collated photo report showed protesters mid-struggle with the security forces, Kashmiris struggling to leave the state — ticket windows crammed with people in a desperate bid to get out, etc.

Photographs of deserted streets, closed shutters flanked solely by the military and paramilitary forces were a favourite with publications.

Credibility and criticism

The Western media’s Kashmir coverage has gained undue importance, perhaps, amid a paucity of reportage in domestic television and print media.

Opposition parties have used it to attack the government while the Indian authorities have questioned the credibility of the reporting.

However, organisations like the BBC have stood by their coverage: “…We strongly refute any claims that we have misrepresented events in Kashmir,’’ it said in a statement to ThePrint, reiterating the stand it took amid criticism of its reports on the 9 August Soura stir. “We are covering the situation impartially and accurately. Like other broadcasters we are currently operating under severe restrictions in Kashmir but we will continue to report what is happening.”

Amy Kazmin, south Asia correspondent of Financial Times, said local reporters working for the foreign media “have done a fantastic job”.

The Washington Post is yet to respond to ThePrint’s request for comment.

Sevanti Ninan, media commentator and former editor of the media website TheHoot.org said, “For the foreign press, Kashmir is both a conflict zone, and disputed territory, and it covers it as such. After Kashmir’s change of status, they think it is their job to capture protests, not to pander to the Indian government’s sensitivities.”

With inputs from Srijan Shukla and Shailaja Bajpai


Also read: The sheer folly of Modi govt’s media managers plotting a Kashmir-is-normal story


 

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. Greetings! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  2. The fact is we are all real hypocrites in the world. If the same foeign media had hailed the government’s move on J&K, the ruling party would have gone gaga. The main stream Indian media for reasons best known to them are crawling and bending, we cannot expect them to fall in line. Let them do their job. Why not government to revive Radio Jutithan and launch a counter propaganda.

  3. I live in Germany and after the decision I observed, many Pakistani Nationals here observing protests, I have no comments on that. Indians stood by Indian governments decision in heart and mind. In the city I study, Hannover, there’s a protest by Pakistani students, they tried attention by social media too, but i think it want very successful. I didn’t see any protest, but see a few photos in those students social media which had around 10-15 students.

    The most surprising thing was, the next day there’s press coverage of the event with headlines line “Asians protest against Kashmir decision”. There was no other Nationals; Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, none at all; and i have classmates from other countries. This just days how can the press just manipulate a simple data to change the interpretation.

      • To fill up space. Nobody in the West gives a damn about South Asian affairs, which are just a footnote when reported. Too many things happening for anybody to care about India-Pakistan affairs. Indians should remove this chip off their shoulders that anybody cares. Like the careless headline Indians are Asians. Don’t read too much into it. India and Pakistan are just 2 poverty struck nations which really have nothing much to offer.

  4. Since some Print readers accuse me of being a Pakistani in disguise, will start my submission with a chant of BMKJ. 2. This is how the world sees developments of the last one month. Many / most of the media entities named in this column are the gold standard of journalism. They have worked hard to build up their credibility, are quick to acknowledge and apologise for an occasional lapse. It passes belief that any reasonable person could believe the entire global media has suddenly begun to hate India, to the extent of fabricating reports that show it in a poor light. 3. Indian diplomats should be at work now trying to rebuild what had been damaged. They face weather beaten media professionals. Not cheerleaders and fan girls. When people evaluate India as an investment destination, this composite collage of our global image matters a great deal.

    • Gold standard truly. They found WMD in Iraq, on the establishment’s instructions. No wonder readership/ consumption of all these ‘gold standard’ media outlets is rapidly decreasing. Most of them couldn’t read the mood in their own countries ( read Trump and Brexit). So expecting any credibility from them is a stretch. Neither Indians nor Pakistanis should take their reportage seriously as South Asian news is only a foot note, to fill up space.

  5. // For the foreign press, Kashmir is both a conflict zone, and disputed territory, and it covers it as such. After Kashmir’s change of status, they think it is their job to capture protests, not to pander to the Indian government’s sensitivities. //

    If that’s the case why has foreign media did not cover the constant suppression in Pakistan of Baloch movement or Pakistan doing the same thing to Kashmir region controlled by it during 2009-2010 ?
    Where was the urgency to solve the Kashmir problem & why was it allowed to foster for 70 years which led to countless loss of lives of Kashmiris as well as Indians ?
    Why call it Indian govt. sensibilities & why not instead try to present the Kashmir problem in more nuanced & much more balanced way ? The kind of international reporting has happened has only concerned itself with Islamist-separatist arguments & claims of oppression {which are true to some extent but it is bound to happen in conflict prone region} but what about the oppression of other communities within the Kashmir region ? Why did they not question their own narrative ?
    Where is the questioning of Pakistan in trying to give double sided messages of war & peace simultaneously {esp. no mention of Urdu media’s warmongering} ?
    Is international media is saying that they are the one to decide what is & what is not ‘disputed territory’ and if that is not the case then how can they choose the Kashmir problem to cover it as disputed territory rather than as India’s internal matter ? Do they get to interpret the constitutions too to make sense of it as they want to frame it rather than allowing the constitution to speak for itself ?
    Why is international media is not questioning their own govt’s motivations for allowing the Kashmir problem to foster for 70 years ?
    Why international media responds only to communities who make hue & cry or else it is always Majority-Minority binaries they like to discuss ? In how much of these international media coverage did we hear about suppression of rights of minorities within J&K state or Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits or how misinformation is used to propagate Islamist fundamentalism in Kashmiri youth ?

    I have many more questions for all these international media outlets but i will rest my case here for now & if Print can ask these on my behalf to the international media i would be glad to know their responses.

  6. Why can’t The Print publish my views/ comments? Conveniently taken off in the name of moderation. My views also hv freedom of speexh. The Print is scared of publishing my comments

  7. These foreign media/ journos also need to earn their living…else their children/ loved ones will be hunger struck. So, need to speak lie, deceit, to meet 2 square meals a day.
    Also, get by paid by Pak ISI/ Pak Army to spread lies, in the name of freedom of speech

  8. The foreign press falsifies by selecting facts to highlight. Not once in their editorializing have they noted that what Pakistan did to Gilgit and Baltistan was no different from what India did to Leh and J&K; or that the PoK is administered from Islamabad just like J&K is now. They also never pointed out that Pakistan and the separatists used to call Article 370 a sham, and now they claim to be outraged that it is gone. There was also no mention of ethnic cleansing in the valley by militants. You would expect Imran Khan to never mention the thousands of terrorists in Pakistan. However, it is an affront to fairness that foreign press failed to do that.

    How does one explain this selective reporting by the western press with their high standards and their policies that often push reporters to talk to all sides of a dispute? Indeed, the foreign press dutifully talks and quotes Indian academics and experts. It is these Indians, who for decades have faulted India, who paint a one-sided picture and deliberately ignore the Indian perspective. Bloomberg had an article by Pankaj Mishra. Washington Post has articles by Salman Taseer. Arundhati Roy frequently writes for New York times. Over the last few years, I have read numerous articles in world’s most influential media by a number of other Indians – nearly all of whom are viscerally opposed to BJP and to Modi. Now who do you think their reporters and editors talk to when they want to understand the current events?

    It is not enough for Indians to reject foreign press as biased. It is also not enough to ask the Indian govt to refute these reports because the press doesn’t even talk to the govt before reporting. Instead, we need to learn to play the game. We need to make it clear to the western press that their current stable of experts are disconnected from the Indian people and are deeply antithetical to Indian culture and to the Indian people. We also need to cultivate non-governmental experts who are closer to the Indian people and who can articulate Indian interests with conviction.

  9. No substance in Foreign Media reports. When there is lockout and everyone is inside home how one can rely such fake reports that intend to disintegrate India. Let Govt do its job and once the terrorists are flushed out Kashmir will be Switzerland and wonderful place for tourists.

  10. The only reason extremist Wahabi aggression and violence thrives all over the world is the so called liberal press. Ironically under Shariah law, there is no freedom of thought, no religious freedom, no women’s rights, no gay rights.

    Yet these lefties all over the world shed crocodile tears for Jihad causes. Let’s make no mistake: Burhan Wani with Jihad verses and machine gun did not represent freedom. Kashmiriyat has been destroyed thanks to Pakistan sponsored indoctrination in Kashmir. It will take some time to restore.

  11. This is not some kind of beauty contest! This is a lonely, tough battle.
    Article 370 had to go.
    There would have been violent, staged protests to claim “genocide” if communication clampdown had not been done.

    We were fighting Jihad all alone. Were these media entities singing our praise? Move on.

    Most of these entities are hard core commies and Jihad supporters. Jews had been present in Israel for 1000s of years before the PBUH nonsense, yet all of them support Jihad against Israel.

    Tareq Fatah has correctly said Hindus display Spine of Steel after 1000 years.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here