India has always been a multi religious and ethnic society with a diverse shape and construct of its society. This optics has really helped India to build its image as a secular democracy across the world. However, this diversity not only brings strength but also poses certain obstacles, such as the way minorities are depicted in the media.
The media, encompassing various mediums like print, broadcast, or online, has an enormous influence on shaping people’s attitudes. It can be a double-edged sword, where a misuse of its power can fuel the spread of stereotypical beliefs, prejudice, and even hatred against groups with fewer rights. This article critically examines the role of Indian media in perpetuating narratives that marginalize and demonize these minorities.
Several case studies illustrate the media’s potential role as a propaganda tool against minorities in India:
“Kashmir Files” Unpacking the Documentary
“Kashmir Files” purports to shed light on previously untold stories of Kashmir’s turbulent history, specifically focusing on the 1990s. The documentary brings attention to alleged human rights violations, terrorism, and the challenges faced by the Kashmiri Pandit community. While it is important to acknowledge historical facts and address the suffering of all communities, the way such stories are presented can have profound implications for social harmony and understanding.
The film has been lauded by India’s ruling BJP government, receiving tax breaks and even Modi’s personal stamp of approval, and has triggered a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment and virulent hate speech at showings throughout the country.
Many independent historians and observers argue that “Kashmir Files” present a one-sided pe¬rspective, which may distort our understanding of complex historical events. Kashmir Files emphasize certain instances of violence and focus solely on the suffering of one community, while neglecting or downplaying the experiences of others. This selective portrayal can unintentionally fuel animosity and resentment.
Countering the propaganda
Kashmir files totally and on purpose neglects the other side of the picture, the positives, the unity and harmony in Kashmiri people irrespective of religion. Sanjay Tickoo, a Hindu pandit in the valley, who and his family chose to stay in Kashmir amid 1990s violence. Sanjay Tickoo, who now heads up the KPSS, an organization that looks after the affairs of the Pandits who remain in Kashmir, still remembers it well. In an interview given to Aljazeera Sanjay said the community did experience intimidation and violence but, there was no genocide or mass murder as suggested by Pandit communities based outside Kashmir.
Former Air vice Marshal Kapil Kak, a Kashmiri Pandit, recently spoke at a webinar organized by Anhad, Delhi on the ominous implications of the film and the “raging narrative” that it has unleashed. He said
“Not all are lies. Not all truth either. [The Kashmir Files] is an attempt to give spin to the unfortunate and deeply saddening exit and tragic exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits.”
“What the film seeks to do is to vilify, downplay, and delegitimize the Kashmiri Muslims and their own pain and suffering for 32 years. There is deafening silence on that.”
“Thinking and forward-looking individuals see the film as weaponizing the pain and suffering of Kashmiri Pandits and their memories for political, communal and possibly electoral considerations.”
“The film shows the entire Kashmiri Muslim community as terrorists. They stand brutalized and dehumanized.”
The aforementioned anecdotes are enough to conclude that the project Kashmir files is ill intended and based upon incomplete truths and biased propaganda at demonizing Kashmiri Muslims, a minority in India.
Communal Riots and Religious Minorities:
The coverage of communal riots in Indian media often highlights religious differences, contributing to an “us vs. them” mentality. Sensationalized reporting tends to overlook underlying socioeconomic factors and paints a simplistic picture of intergroup conflicts. This biased reporting can deepen divides and perpetuate animosity
After dissecting and understanding the journey India, a nation of more than 1.4 billion people, has embarked on, one can conclude that challenging times wait for the region and the world ahead. One strange thing is certain about extremism and hatred that one can turn the tap on but it is not in one’s control to turn it off, while generations to come pay the price through their blood. Policies of hate, superiority and violence, like the proverbial Frankenstein monster, invariably outgrow their creators, often turning on them: it happened in turkey with President Erdogan and the Gulenists, it happened with US and Afghan Mujahideen who later morphed into Taliban and it has happened many a times in Pakistan.
The people of all sorts of minorities from Christians, Hindu Dalits to Kashmiris look upon the international community to ensure their fundamental rights endowed in international law. Therefore it is high time that the world community should overcome its policies of appeasing a market of one billion people and should talk some sense in the ruling BJP regime. The world should realize the extent of threat, arch rivals equipped with nuclear weapons and unresolved conflicts cannot afford to have extremist ideologies ruling them.
The writer is a student of Peace & Conflict Studies at National Defense University, Islamabad and is currently serving as an intern at Kashmir Institute of International Relations.