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Open Space

Please take them Off Air!!!

Baba Umar

Immediately after Indian parliament attack in 2002, that followed military mobilization by India and Pakistan along the international border, I remember, a special radio package was aired by BBC Urdu service. A cigarette seller in a village tucked close on the Radcliff line in Rajasthan was asked why he had not migrated to a safer place if the war was imminent.

"I believe there will be no full-fledged war. Because both the countries are nuclear-armed," he said, affirming that those who left the village in haste will come back soon.

Six years have passed, and November 26 attacks on India's financial capital Mumbai have escalated the war of words between the two countries similar to the point of 2002. However, media in India doesn't seem to understand what the poor Baniya observed then.

Indian media appears hell bent upon dragging India to invade Pakistan, which has denied have orchestrated or abetted Mumbai attacks. It doesn't realize the war-affects on the people of twin nations who were born to same mother between 24 hours in August 1947 after a line daggered between them.

In a show of a terrible reporting during Mumbai siege, Indian media risked lives of hundreds of hostages inside the hotels by airing details about what the security agencies were up to, exact location of the trapped who were until out of sight to heavily armed assailants, and a mediocre telephone talks with one of the assailants beseeching his mission scripts and location in the hotel.

Nothing could be more dangerous and mischievous than this.

To increase the TRPs, the chicks with lipsticks continued to hold the logo Mics straight and blabber the hurriedly thought-over 'Piece –to-Camera', but little did they bothered about the gleam of television screens that must have startled the hostages and simultaneously sparkled the faces of assailants who had the television sets kept on.

Take few instances for example:

As the world watched the news of Mumbai attacks, it was shocking to see NDTV's Barkha Dutt breaking every canon of fair journalism. At one instance she asked a husband about his wife being trapped or seized as a hostage. The poor man fell in line and revealed where exactly his wife was hiding when he last saw her.

In another instance, the Reporter called the head of Oberoi Hotel, who confirmed that there were possibly more than 100 people in the building.

In short, the media acted too speedy and horribly when slow action was needed.

Then the mantra that propels these channels is the borrowed but unabated denouncement. Few days after the event, to condemn the attacks, which India blamed to Muslim Lashkar-e-Taiba based in Pakistan, top Bollywood stars, Shahrukh Khan, Amir Khan and Salman Khan were chosen. Though the threesome love to love reel life dance and drink with half-bare actresses, they were there, invited every evening in news studios, to accentuate on what the correct form of Islam is in real life.

"There are two forms of Islam, one the Allahwalaand second the Mullahwala," Sharukh Khan told an English news channel.

All aired!

Now the non-stop but raucous news shows continue make prognosis about the future of India beside defiant Pakistan. An impression is being created among masses especially the political leadership of India, who until recently had not directly held Pakistan responsible for the attacks, about more possible attacks from Pakistan-based groups.

A consensus is being formed to belittle efforts of Pakistan in cracking down the militants in its region, who according to India had perpetrated the attacks in Mumbai. Attempts are being made to establish that Pakistan failed in tracing down the mastermind of Mumbai attacks and India must step in urgently with its huge army and artillery to twist the enemy's arm and dislodge it.

Though few could be spared, the truth of the matter is that most of the Indian media persons are sick. In fever. Contaminated by huge salary packages. Infected with the extravagant lifestyle which is not sustainable by the ordinary poor. The infecundity of the infected organism is going to plague the whole sub-continent, if at all war erupts.

While the growing influence of India in Pakistan's decade-long strategic depth-- Afghanistan and its dogmatic attitude on Kashmir is simply overlooked, hours-long debates and chat shows deliberate upon Pakistan's attempts in subverting India.

Arnab Goswami of Times Now (of late christened as General Arnab in Kashmir) in his voice gives the notion of a dictator. All civilized Indians will be appalled at his judgmental news presenting. He seems to be a rabble-rouser and a person technically at war with Pakistan when he seeks comments with ferocity and asks war experts whether precision guided missiles will be fired on Pakistan administered Kashmir or the war will be rather of more unconventional nature.

Goswami and his likes sideline the composition of the India-Pakistan geography and their military might, given the fact, that the primary conflict, if ever ensues, will be fought in the area close to both India and Pakistan with the air conditioned news studios bound to get caught in the crossfire, both in New Delhi and Mumbai, if India, incase of war, penetrates deeper into Islamabad and Karachi.

And same has been voiced by India's Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh, a former journalist, who slammed the television channels and newspapers for "ridiculously" talking about war and creating "unnecessary war hysteria" among the people.

Now that the war clouds were allowed to gather, a serious media at this particular juncture needs to give hype at how much people of both countries are going to lose if the war erupted.

According to Strategic Foresight Group, if a nuclear bomb of 15 kilotons (Highly Enriched Uranium) was dropped in the Fort area of Mumbai on any weekday, the immediate death toll would be 23 lakh and would destroy the entire financial, intellectual and governing elite of Mumbai, leading to a financial collapse hard to recover from.

Likewise, it says, if India retaliated with a 50 kiloton (Plutonium) bomb on Karachi's Cantt Railway Station, the immediate death toll would be close to 18 lakh with all the financial and services infrastructure destroyed and life crippled.

The group believes that the troop mobilisation on the pattern of 2002 for a year will cost India 0.46 percent of GDP and Pakistan 2.25 percent of GDP.

Since both countries have been claiming victories in all of their fights against each other, the figures released by the group prove the assertion is wrong as both countries have suffered almost matching fatalities and same balance of power between the two countries still exist.

Like a child having a tantrum and an adult with disturbed childhood, the Indian media has been coming up with so much 'twisty tales' about Pakistan without any evidence (but their sources). And the irony is that there is no criticism coming up. The Pakistani media's stance is no different from the stance of its people. We have witnessed so many times, when people in Pakistan criticized their media for exaggeration and the useless panicky stuff but one must have to confess in this instance that Pakistani media has shown some restraint and acted sensibly contrasting the Indian media that has come up with the most idiotic stories and the usual melodrama that one would have had a chance to watch.

'Bombard Pakistan', 'How India should hit back Pakistan' and 'Wake-up India' is what we have been barraged with from the past several weeks through papers, web and news channels..

It's a shame that the Indian media is inciting anger amongst the Indian people when people in the sub-continent were thinking that both countries could at last get over their differences, with the non-interference of Pakistan in the J&K Assembly elections being the greatest CBM offered to India as a starter.

Keeping these things in view, it will be prudent on the part of Indian media neither to sketch state policies nor be the voice of a particular politician and surely not activate wars but help diffuse tensions between India and Pakistan.

And about the great generosity and compassion from the people and journalists of Pakistan, a piece that appeared in the Indian Express on December 20—The Microphone Wars and the National Interest by Shekhar Gupta fits in the current situation where the author called on the senior Indian media people particularly editors to intervene before the great professional decade-long bond between India and Pakistani journalists starts to morsel.

Baba Umar is a Srinagar based journalist.


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