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Feb 23, 2011
Open Space

Between Egypt and Kashmir

Burhan Majid

After Tunisia, Egypt is the buzzword. Indeed Egyptian people deserve plaudits. They have shown the present day world that how dedication and collective endeavor simultaneously bring a revolution. Even as the Egypt’s future remains to be precarious, a thirty year old dictatorship has fallen.

This major political development has its own impact on the world politics. Unfortunately a section of people has surfaced, both within and outside, who are drawing parallels between Egypt and Kashmir. In fact, their argument is that Kashmiris should learn from the Egyptians. They are trying to embarrass the Kashmiri community.

The act, however, sounds ridiculous, is sufficient enough to add insult to the injury.

Yet the courage shown by the Egyptians is remarkable.

Similarities cannot be drawn between what happened in Egypt-that marked the end of a regime- and the recent protests in Kashmir. Doing so means deluding the people.

Kashmiris are demanding the implementation of UN resolutions, which is possible only when two countries Indian and Pakistan will agree upon. Kashmiris have never sought a change in government. However, the Egyptians were seeking change in authoritarian government that governed them for the past thirty years. The protests were related to governance and economy.

The world saw a sea of people at Tahrir Square in Cairo for eighteen straight days. Can we think of a same gathering for the same duration at Red Square (Lal Chowk) in Srinagar, which is often sealed in anticipation of a rally.

Last year more than 100 people mostly young and teenagers fell to bullets while protesting the atrocities at the hands of Indian police and paramilitary troopers.

According to the media reports, Egyptian Army exercised a good restraint vis-a-vis the protests, while as a similar reaction is yet to be expected from Indian army and Police in Kashmir.

A significant difference dawns upon after viewing the media handling of the two happenings. The protests in Egypt were given a widespread coverage by the international media. Known media houses of the world ran the news about Egypt minute by minute. Live updates. Videos. Photographs. Debates. Analysis. Opinions and what not?

Contrary to it Kashmir seldom receives that much attention by the international media. Indian media sees Kashmir more as the issue of national interest rather than a news destination that deserves to be reported objectively.

The local cable TV channels in Srinagar and other districts of Kashmir valley have been banned soon after the protests. The ban continues to be in force even today.

Authorities say these channels incite people by showing the footage of protests in their news bulletins.

As the protests in Egypt were gaining pace with time, so was the coverage by the media across the length and breadth of the world.

They had BBC, CNN, New York Times, Guardian and yet many more to get their protest heard by an international audience and getting international players to react.

Egyptians acknowledged that social networking websites played an important role in accomplishing the goal of bringing down Hosni Mubarak. Though social media did not make the revolution in Egypt happen. But, with every step chronicled in real time and aired to everyone with an Internet connection, it hastened its pace and transferred the voice from sovereign leaders to a community of millions.

Even some say Facebook did it. But in Kashmir youth, who tried to communicate the police atrocities on social networking sites, were arrested and charged. The Short Messaging Service (SMS) of mobile phones was suspended for months together and it is yet to be restored fully.

Now are the two cases identical?

They are as distinct as their nomenclature.

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