Apropos an article “Unwrapping the soldier from the flag – Kashmir after the flood” by Chirag Thakkar (a supposed Delhi University research scholar) carried by Kashmir Times, a local Jammu based English newspaper and as a guest post by a blog kafila.org. In the article the author has accused the Indian media of “insensitivity” by “valourising the Jawan” involved in the flood rescue operation. He has also accused the Indian Army of “systematic use of torture” on the civilian population of Kashmir.
The article exhibits appalling journalism in its content and context neither of which is based on facts or empirical evidence. These are mere accusations wrapped in high sounding English that would cause revulsion to any discerning reader.
The writer introduces himself as a “performance artist” and an independent journalist who researches the “bio-politics of torture and memory in Kashmir” at the Department of Political Science, Delhi University. It is surprising that the author has deemed it fit to make strong and sinister allegations of torture and repression of the Kashmiri people by the Indian Army on the basis of some reports of foreign agencies. He has also accused the Indian media of bias towards the service in matters of national importance. The manner in which he has approached the subject is a sad commentary on the level of research that is being undertaken in Delhi University.
Since the author is making an attempt to research on Kashmir and is going about his brief with a jaundiced mind, there is a need to acquaint him with certain facts.
The recent unfortunate situation of floods in Kashmir is not the first time that a natural calamity has struck the region and not the first time that the Armed Forces have come out to assist the people.The region is afflicted with landslides, avalanches, cloud bursts, accidents where vehicles fall into deep gorges, earthquakes etc quite often. The Valley is cut off by heavy snowfall that closes down the land route almost every year. Every time it is the army that opens the highway and looks after those stranded on the roads. In instances of heavy snowfall and avalanches, it is the army that sends out professional rescue teams from its High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) situated at Gulmarg, Kashmir. During the many occasions when flash floods have cause devastation in Ladakh and other parts of the state, it is the army that carries out rescue and builds temporary bridges for communication. In meeting all these natural travails the army and the civilians work with seamless harmony-shoulder to shoulder. It is not only the army that helps the civilians; there are innumerable instances when civilians assist the army. All this happens as a routine in Kashmir, out of the media glare. The army personnel and the civilians have to survive together in hostile, treacherous conditions and they have a system and to do so- over a period of time, a tradition of mutual help and assistance is in place. Hence, it’s unjustifiable and wrong on the part of those not staying in the area to comment on the situation on the basis of limited knowledge.
Does the author wish to say that the rule of law has completely surrendered in the state of Jammu and Kashmir? Does the author wish his readers to believe that all the visuals and print media stories of the rescue operations in Kashmir were false and motivated? Does he wish to suggest that Indian media has been reduced to a public relations department of the government of India and the Indian Army? Definitely the Indian media would take strong exception of being thus portrayed.
It would be understandable if such filthy literature had emanated from certain vested interests on the payroll of foreign elements, but for the research scholar of an eminent university to write in this manner is quite surprising. What is more unfortunate is that while indulging in this motivated, yellow journalism, author Chirag Thakkar is using the august name of Delhi University. By writing this riposte, he is generating hype that he is probably looking for.
Considering the facts mentioned by Thakkar in his article, it becomes all the more important to send out a word of caution to eminent educational institutions to prevent a repeat in future.
Jaibans Singh (The writer is Editor of www.defenciinfo.com)