When the State Celebrates the People’s Independence but the People Don’t: Twelve Questions for the Press Trust of India

Srinagar's Lal Chowk on 15 August 2011. Photo credit: Zahoor Zargar / KashmirDispatch.com


The Editor,
The Press Trust of India,
New Delhi.

Dear Editor:

This is regarding your news report, “I-Day Celebrated Peacefully in Kashmir Valley“.

While the news report tells us how the celebrations were held by the chief minister in Srinagar and the deputy chief minister in Jammu, and what arrangements were made for the celebrations to take place, there’s one line in that report that tells us:

Meanwhile, normal life was was affected in Kashmir Valley due to a shutdown called by both factions of Hurriyat Conference and tight security restrictions for the Independence Day.

I have a few questions for you.

My questions mostly relate to the basic rule of news reporting, Five Ws and One H:

  1. Why did the Hurriyat Conference call for a shutdown? Why does your news report not tell us that? Why does the story quote government officials about the flag-hoisting ceremonies, but not the Hurriyat leaders whom you say caused the shutdown?
  2. How did the Hurriyat Conference managed to enforce such a “shutdown”?
  3. If it was a mere shutdown “call” without the threat of being gunned down if you opened your shop or walked down for a stroll, it implies that the people voluntarily decided to follow the call, right? In which case, why does the report not say, ‘The people observed a shutdown in response to a call by the Hurriyat Conference’?
  4. If the people at large voluntarily followed a “shutdown” call, does it not amount to a boycott? Given that the separtists and online Kashmiri forums called it a ‘black day’, why are we not told that in the story?
  5. I saw another news report that quoted a local as saying, “In reality, the people of Kashmir themselves stay inside their homes.” Why does your report not quote any local to explain why they observed a shutdown?
  6. Given that our government tells us that the number of militants are negligible in the Valley, and that those going about their ‘normal life’ were not threatened by their lives, why did they en masse listen to the Hurriyat ‘shutdown call’?
  7. Your headline uses the word “celebration”. What sort of an Independence Day “celebration” is it when the people whose independence is supposedly being celebrated are not celebrating, instead boycotting it?
  8. If a section of the independent people of independent India are not celebrating their own independence, shouldn’t that be the headline?
  9. How is it that the Hurriyat Conference holds such sway over the people, because security experts have been telling us how the Kashmiri people’s decision to not heed to the Hurriyat call to boycott panchayat elections was a sign that the “separatists” are becoming unpopular?
  10. Given that the last line of the report tells us that roads leading to the centre of Srinagar, the Ghanta Ghar at Lal Chowk, were sealed off by the J&K police and the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force, why is the blame of ‘affecting normal life’ attributed only to the Hurriyat Conference?
  11. Lastly, why does the report describe a shutdown voluntarily as the Hurriyat being responsible for ‘affecting normal life’ but describes the jamming of mobile phones and the internet networks as a mere security measure? Don’t such stringent security measures affect normal life?
  12. Don’t you think such lop-sided reporting with clear biases of omission and commission come in the way of your readers understanding and appreciating the truth about the political situation in the Kashmir Valley?

Looking forward to your response.

Best regards,
Shivam Vij

41 thoughts on “When the State Celebrates the People’s Independence but the People Don’t: Twelve Questions for the Press Trust of India”

    1. Kashmir was independat on & around 15th August 1947 while india was not.We kasmiris did lose our independance soon after 27 Oct 1947 when indians invaded us clandestinely without any reason.Let me enlighten u all,much before 15th August,Ghandhi abondened the communal roits in Noakhali &b rushed to kashmir (it is unrecorded & unofficial)& made a drama of sorts & asked the maharaja to arrange a meeting with Sheikh(in a abonded school building in Amirakadal & acted as a symathizer to kashmiris before Sheikh & befooled us all
      15th August is a day og mourning for us all & we do celebrate it a MOURNING DAY

      1. A very strange assertion. On the 15th August, Kashmir was a princely state under the Maharaja’s rule. How do you get that it was independent? Your murder mystery story makes exciting reading, but is there any proof that such a trip by Gandhi happened, and that there was a meeting between him and Sheikh Abdullah? What, according to you, was the outcome of this meeting? Are you saying that the Sheikh became pro-India as a result? Or what? What is your point of that story? Even if the meeting took place, how did Kashmir become independent, considering that the Maharaja was in power until the date of his accession to India?

        This is a colourful story, and if you write a book about it, you will be rich and famous, but it is not the truth.

  1. Fabulous, Shivam! The deliberate disinformation and misinformation by the “free” press of India about happenings in Kashmir–so often and so clearly calling into question India’s legitimacy as a “governing” power in the valley–is an act of abdication of its duties that must be called out. Bravo.

    1. True, true. What a sad contrast to the Anglo-American free press, and its rock-jawed integrity and independence of action. Amazing how they truly, truly understand freedom and how to do it.

      1. Are we going to measure ourselves to ‘the West’ or to our own Constitution and its ideals? Your suggestion that the West is some sort of arbiter of benchmarks for India sounds insullting. It shows you still suffer from the white man complex, Mr Bonobashi. High time you decolonised your mind.

      2. Are we going to measure ourselves to ‘the West’ or to our own Constitution and its ideals?

        Except that our constitution itself is based on “Western” constitutions. There may have been some lip-service to the republican Lichchavis in the Constitutent Assembly, but our Constitution is clearly “Western.” Look at the judgments of our judges: there will be references to judgments in the USA, the UK, South Africa etc. but I’d be very surprised if there is any reference to our pre-colonial past.

        This is off-topic (so please feel free to delete) but the Indian intellectual deference to the West has been noted for long. There is a classic study by Edward Shils titled The Intellectual between Tradition and Modernity: The Indian case published as far as back as 1961 which noted this deference. In recent times, even the very Indian Andre Beteille has noted it.

        We cannot get rid of this deference by simply rejecting whatever comes from the West, a strategy dear to the likes of [the idiotic] S. Gurumurthy. Kaushik Basu, who revels in paradoxes, noted [I forget where] that if we reject something merely because it comes from the West, then we are deferential to the West.

        It will be a long time before we develop a truly independent intellectual tradition of our own. For the moment, we borrow and adapt what comes from the West. Nothing wrong in it. Anyway, getting back to the topic… on the specific point raised by “bonobashi”, Mridu’s response was the correct one. But thanks for writing the letter to the PTI.

  2. Highlights the “celebration” of Independence Day in the “Integral” part of India, eye opener for people who are awake, blind folded people stay away.
    More Power to you pen Shivam. :)

  3. If you don’t take offence, Can i ask you one question:

    Do you really believe in the fiction that people voluntarily respond to a Shutdown Call, anywhere in the world?

    Thank you

      1. Thank you Shivam Sir, For answering. So, you beleive in Advaita Vedanta, You know Adi Shankara’s teachings: You don’t exist, i don’t exist, India doesn’t exist, so Kashmir doesn’t exist. All is fiction, all is MAYA..
        You sound so like my Village school headmaster. Whatever he taught we had to agree with a nod of our head. Any inconvenient questions and the answer was a can on the palms or if mood was benign, his answer would be something like yours.

  4. It is important for all to understand the psyche of the kashmir people especially of the valley. That is why media reports should be factual . Vij has asked PTI the kind of questions that a good journalist should have asked to get the story. Kafila is getting the credibility that the mainstream media lacks !

  5. A hit a very palpable hit

    and as far as PTI’s response is concerned

    The Rest is Silence

  6. great sir…at least some one has guts to light the candle in the dark city of ghosts..

  7. BRILLIANT…”Looking forward to your response.” ….That response you will have on 26th Jan with a copy-paste of what you got on 15th Aug…..For Shivam: ALLAH KARE ZOR-E-QALAM AUR ZIYADA

  8. Not my freedom at all. We are Kashmiris and not Indians…so there was no reason for celebrations…nice write-up…

  9. Opression of Anna hazare ; dat 2 on d day next to 15th august is d real face of indian democracy…kashmiris hav seen dat face of democracy a long time ago which d rest of india has witnessed today..howcome we obey it;howecome we celebrate d independence. where d heck does independence reside in india…we boycot d celebrations on our own n any faction of hurriyat has hardly ny impact on peoples will.

  10. ‎12 questions too many on the same point. Hurriyat’s call had nothing to do with the shutdown, and therefore, I agree with the author, that the Hurriyat had no role in ‘affecting normal life’ (their days of affecting anything are past) and should not have been invoked by certain sections of media as the official punching bags.

    I also agree that the security forces do seal off some roads (‘bandobast’) for security reasons (happens in all cities). Big deal! A snapshot of Ghanta Ghar at Lal Chowk is not representative of the entire valley. A picture speaks louder than a thousand words, but what it speaks is a misrepresentation.

    Though it is true that not many in the valley would celebrate 15 August like people do in the rest of India (for a number of reasons), it would be wrong to assume that they shutdown on this day in protest:

    1) “The people of Kashmir themselves stay inside their homes (on this day)” because there is tension in the air, in anticipation of random violence. People are averse to taking risk, and that is the reason for the success of terrorism. Though militancy is at its lowest, “once bitten, twice shy.”

    2) 15 August is never expected to be a ‘normal day’ anywhere! It is not just a national holiday (which affects offcies and schools); it is an established holiday-for-one-and-all. People plan trips to hill stations on this day months in advance. I know of a large group of friends who have fixed 15 August as a must-do annual get-together at Pahalgam. They have been meeeting there, along with their families, from the last fifteen years. This year, 15 August fell on a Monday, which gave them a two-day break. Extended holiday: all the more fun!

    3) Life was as usual outside of towns and cities.

    1. Yeah right, the Srinagar residents were holidaying in Pahalgam! And Lal Chowk was shut just like Connaught Place, except Connaught Place wasn’t! If the Press Distrust of India’s Obfuscation Desk has a vacancy please ask Sualeh Keen to apply.

    2. Mr Myth Buster Sualeh Kameen,
      I hope you enjoyed 15th August oscillating between cultivated lies and imaginary fable weaving. You would be relieved of this constipation if you came back to Srinagar and received the batons of your dear brothers in uniform. But you choose the life of Vindhyaas and the western ghats. We can understand your compulsion for weaving such stories, after all career compulsions force toy to become a ;jee huzur guy’. ‘Meem sahab salaam patte patte ghulaam’.
      Where did you see people escaping to health resorts from Srinagar. My cousins could not take food for attendants in hospital due to the restrictions. If Lal chowk, Dalgate, old city, Nawa Kadal, Khanyar, Babademb, Fateh Kadal, Safa Kadal, Anchar, Hazratbal, Maisuma, Lalded, SherGadhi, Habakadal, Ghonikhan is not Srinagar, what are they? New york or Gaza? All of Srinagar particularly these areas were out of bounds for public.
      Your lies are vile in intent. But then you have career compulsions. Paapi paet ka sawaal hai, hence your forged tirade is momentarily forgiven.

  11. Often calls for bandh get a good response, not out of respect but out of fear. If people choose not to celebarate a day that is also part of the rights they enjoy and entitled to The govt. of India is not forcing you in Delhi or anyone elsewhere in India to come out and hoist a flag and sing songs. Mr.Shivam writes like a teacher who evaluates a students answwer with remarks, ‘if so why so if not why not’ just to reveal that he can ask questions as part of evaluation . A news report is not something that has answers forall such questions. Can readers send similar sets of questions on posts in Kafila . Five Ws and One H is known to readers too.

  12. Like all other ‘pillars’ of democracy the fourth pillar is also corrupt and pliable and spineless in this case. They just dont report the truth unless there is something in it for them. In this case most things would not be for them. For e.g. they could loose their licences or permits or tax concessions or whatever it takes for them to function from the official point of view. This being such a populous country alternative journalists would be found a dime a dozen to take their place. so no one messes with you know who, for the price to pay is a lot.

  13. Shivam Vij wrote: “Are we going to measure ourselves to ‘the West’ or to our own Constitution and its ideals? Your suggestion that the West is some sort of arbiter of benchmarks for India sounds insullting. It shows you still suffer from the white man complex, Mr Bonobashi. High time you decolonised your mind.”

    Thank you for your condescension; your homily inspires me to be a better person, less imbued with the poison of the west, and you have made a second brilliant point, just one shade behind your original expose.

    If we are to take the constitution and its ideals as our beaconlight, that constitution also contains requirements that it be defended from hostile attack, through propaganda many times more corrosive than the newspaper reports that you have attacked, through funding by an implacable, revanchist enemy, and through armed assaults on the organs of the state formed by the constitution.

    Given such single-minded concentration of energies to the alienation of a susceptible population, the alienation that is present today is not difficult to understand.

    Perhaps the newspapers and the journalists that you have pilloried have come to some conclusions earlier than you have; perhaps they do not wish to play the patriot game any longer.

    Please do not cite any facile reason for general, public support to the efforts of the elements hostile to the very constitution that you invoke so glibly. Whatever the reasons in 1989 and in 1990, corruption, election rigging and dynastic rule, these affected other parts of India; those other parts are engaged, as we exchange these clever little notes and massage each other’s egos, in combatting them.

    Elections, for instance, have drawn away from the vile excesses of the box-stuffing in Bihar, or over much of India, until today the Election Commission can take pride in the overwhelming rectitude of the proceedings. You might be aware of what much of India is doing about the matter of corruption, through the reports of the same sullied and compromised media that you have flayed.

    It was open to the 3 million and odd residents of the Valley to emulate them. Instead they chose another path. Try, if you can, not to justify that, as a basis for what is done today. As the post above yours will remind you – and the rest of us erring mortals – two wrongs do not make a right. There is also something called being too clever by half.

  14. Mridu Rai wrote: “One wrong does not make the other right.”

    You are right, it does not, and your rebuke was justified. My note was not well-phrased, if it conveyed an effort to balance the blemishes of the situation in Srinagar with worse excesses in Fleet Street. It is a fact, however, that the press is not that pristine goddess of probity and discerning ability which was suggested in the note by Vij. It is as good or as bad as other sectors of society. Does it have a special overriding role, greater in responsibility and in demands on its individual components than other sectors? Mr. Vij thinks it to be so; I question that. Beyond that, no counterpoise is sought or implied.

  15. brutally honest…………something so rarely found in media now………..thank you Shivam……its not just about good journalism or impressive writing…its about inspiring courage…and that is what you often do…….

  16. I get too overwhelmed when I see such cross fire, and lose my nerve to say much. All I will say for now, is< by being courteous to each other we can still, make our relevant points, We don't have to be aggressive or put down another, to score brownies.

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