Manufacturing Normalcy

How the Indian media covered Kashmir

01 December 2019
aashim raj for the caravan
aashim raj for the caravan

ON 9 AUGUST, the last Friday before Eid-ul-Adha, thousands gathered in the streets of Soura, a neighbourhood in Srinagar, for a massive protest against the Indian state. Four days earlier, the home minister, Amit Shah, had announced the effective abrogation of Article 370 in the Constitution, which had provided Jammu and Kashmir a special status that allowed the state to have its own separate constitution and state flag. In addition, the government also divided the state into two union territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The move virtually stripped the local leadership of political power, concentrating it completely in the hands of the central government.

According to the New York Times, the crowd chanted slogans of freedom and waved Kashmiri flags. The procession was blocked by security personnel, who, according to the Washington Post, “began firing tear gas canisters and shotguns carrying pellet rounds at the crowd.” Though they found their own eyewitnesses, both papers were following up on video reports put out by the BBC and Al Jazeera, in which everything described can be seen and heard.

These stories and videos were significant as they showed a Kashmir that was completely different from the one shown in the Indian national media. Ever since Shah’s announcement, the Indian government had been at great pains to show that there was no major discontent about its decision in the state. The national media repeated constantly that all was “normal” in Kashmir. The narrative of normalcy played out on primetime television and the front pages of newspapers, and was repeated endlessly on Twitter by journalists who boasted about flying over Kashmir in government helicopters. The video of the huge crowd gathered in Soura, the sight of people running amok and the hammering sound of shotguns in the background punctured that narrative.

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    Atul Dev is a former staff writer at The Caravan.

    Keywords: Kashmir conflict media coverage propaganda