The state of J&K is passing through a very crucial phase. While the government agencies are working diligently to restore normalcy in the state, the vested interests which include, the pro-Pak elements, separatists and Pak sympathisers including soft separatists are determined to ensure that the state remains in turmoil. The modus operandi adopted by the spoilers is to create such a situation that leads to the alienation of the people and creates an anti-government mind-set. In other words an anti-government perception is built among the public to promote their narrative of the government being anti-Kashmiris. In such a scenario, media has an important role to play. The manner in which an event is presented to the Kashmiris and the nation at large helps in building the perception, to quite an extent.
Let’s have a look at the recent Pulwama incident which once again was an ugly attempt by the spoilers to derail the process set in by the Governor’s administration to win over the youth and attempt to restore normalcy in trouble torn South Kashmir. Most of the media headlines, both electronic and print, read, “7 civilians, 3 militants, 1 jawan killed in Pulwama gunfight.” The vernacular press crossed all limits and chose to highlight Omar Abdullah’s tweet describing the incident a ‘massacre’. Local Kashmiri media did not lag behind in arousing the passions. Technically and grammatically there is nothing much wrong in the quoted headlines. But factually the same seems to be incorrect and worded inappropriately. The same headlines should actually have read, “7 stone pelters, 3 terrorists killed and 1 jawan attained martyrdom in Pulwama encounter.” Use of correct terminology helps in building correct perception and media needs to realise it. The second one is a matter of fact headline and portrays a better image of the security forces who undertake these operations as a matter of duty and service to the nation. Terrorists are the enemy of the nation and those who assist them are their co-hearts and sympathisers and deserve no leniency. The nation needs to recognise the sacrifices made by the soldiers and be indebted to the forces involved in anti-terror operations be it in Kashmir, North East or Maoist insurgency infested areas in the heartland.
It is time that the mainstream leadership and Kashmir civil society starts investing in return of normalcy. It appears to be difficult because there are numerous vested interests involved whose existence political or otherwise depends on Kashmir remaining a melting-pot. But the majority, who has only been suffering and has gained nothing from the ongoing turmoil is yearning for peace. At least for their sake, the need to change the mind-set and give peace a chance because the Kashmiris have been exploited to the hilt by these power brokers who have given nothing to the Kashmiris except false and broken promises. The effect of turmoil is equally being felt by the other two regions of the state where demand for trifurcation of the state is gaining momentum but is not in national interest.
Rather than pacifying the public and preaching restraint, leaders who have occupied the highest chair in the state issue provocative statement adding fuel to the fire. Nothing could have been more ill-timed than this tweet of a former Chief Minister, “Protests around encounter sites are now the norm not the exception. Why are we unable to learn how to handle them better?” Indirectly, he is justifying the stone pelting on the security forces and blaming them for not being able to handle stone-pelting mobs who are blood thirsty. Not to be left behind another former CM tweeted, “No country can win a war by killing its own people.” Even without going through the facts of the encounter she has blamed the Indian nation for the civilian causalities that occurred due to the fact that the so called “civilians” who actually were the friends and sympathisers of the trapped terrorists were hurling stone missiles at the soldiers who were preparing to return to their barracks after a successful encounter with no co-lateral damage and in the bargain losing one of their comrades who made supreme sacrifice to ensure that Kashmiri awam is not troubled by the terrorists. Rather than being indebted to the martyr and his family, these goons dared to not only attack the jawans with stones but also had the audacity to climb on their vehicles to snatch the bodies of the terrorists. How can then security forces be blamed for the civilian causalities terming them as ‘civilian killings’ and relating them to human rights violations as if the jawans have no human rights? Human rights are universal and applicable to everybody including the soldiers.
Another tweet of the same CM reads, “South Kashmir has been reeling under fear for the last six months.” As if prior to that when she was at the helms South Kashmir was a heaven as claimed by Firdous! What does she want to convey? If at all South Kashmir is reeling under fear, it is due to the barbaric jihadi terror unleashed by the terrorists duly financed and supported by our arch enemy Pakistan. Does she want South Kashmir to be handed over on platter to the jihadis or she wants the security forces to kill the terrorists and eliminate the terror support network? Did she not learn a lesson from the unsuccessful experimentation of giving amnesty to stone-pelters who were eventually recycled to strengthen the terror support network?
Why should terrorists be referred as “militants”? There is a distinct difference between a militant and terrorist. What cause are these terrorists fighting for except furthering Pak agenda of “bleeding India through thousand cuts?” There is quintessential evidence to prove that what is going on in Kashmir is not militancy but Pak-sponsored Proxy War. The entire terror infrastructure and network has the support of Pakistan including arming, equipping and financing. Unfortunately, even the official handouts issued by the state government also use the word “militant” and not “terrorist”, for reasons best known to the police and bureaucratic machinery of the state. Hopefully, the Governor will take note of this anomaly and issue directive for its rectification.
How can the seven who died be referred to as civilians? Civilians are supposed to be civilised and certainly those using stone missiles to kill security personnel deliberately cannot claim to be civilised. The truth is that there were three heavily armed terrorists and seven lightly armed terrorists and all ten of them were killed in a mandated military operation conducted by the security forces in an area declared “Disturbed” by a competent civilian authority. All of them died of their own will and security forces cannot be held responsible or blamed for the same. The three heavily armed terrorists could have surrendered when appealed by the police and lived as Civilians thereafter. They chose to not to do so of their own will. The seven should have used discretion and stayed away from the encounter site. A thorough scrutiny of their mobile calls will reveal that they were summoned to reach the encounter site after the encounter began and came from different places and were not essentially the locals. They were summoned as part of Escape Strategy which TA soldier turned terrorist Gowhar Thokar had mastered and had successfully escaped from the security forces’ cordon on numerous occasions previously.
How can the Jawan who laid down his life for the motherland, a supreme sacrifice, be clubbed with the terrorists, the nation’s traitors, and referred to as ‘killed’? Let nobody in this country harbour any doubt that the martyrdom of jawans in the line of duty cannot be belittled by using wrong terminology. The Jawans (term used for all ranks including officers) are not killed but they willingly die for a Cause which is neither his personal agenda nor his ideology. He lays down his life unflinchingly for “Namak, Naam and Nishan” and his Country without caring for his family and aged parents. He is a MARTYR and deserves to be referred as such. Martyrs are symbols of exceptional leadership and heroism in the face of difficult circumstances. There is no greater sacrifice known to man than to lay down one’s life in the defence of the nation. A nation that fails to honour its martyrs is doomed to fail. In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, “It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr.”
Discretion is better part of valour. Insensitivity needs to be replaced with apathy and care. Proper selection and use of correct terminology will certainly help the nation win the battle of perceptions.